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Location Tanzania, Pwani
Central coordinates 39o 27.00' East  8o 0.00' South
IBA criteria A4i
Area 72,000 ha
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description The Ruaha–Kilombero–Rufiji is the longest and largest river system in Tanzania, draining much of the southern highlands, southern areas of the central plateau and the coastal lowlands. The delta of the Rufiji river is the largest tidal mangrove wetland on the eastern coast of Africa. Mangroves cover an area of 54,500 ha within the delta, and are protected as the Mangrove-Rufiji Forest Reserves. Seven genera of mangrove occur, with Rhizophora, Avicennia and Heritiera dominant. There are several small settlements within the delta.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. The avifauna of the delta is poorly known. The mangroves are probably a roosting site and feeding ground for tens of thousands of migrant waterbirds, but fieldwork is required to confirm this. A recent survey has added to earlier counts, which covered only around 10% of the delta area. Both counts revealed good numbers of waders including, in addition to those listed below, 2,366 Calidris minuta and 199 Charadrius asiaticus. Lamprotornis corruscus breeds almost exclusively in mangrove forest; in all six species of the East African Coast biome have been recorded (see Table 3).

Non-bird biodiversity: None are known but the mammal Dugong dugon (VU) may still survive in some of the cleaner waters.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Crab-plover Dromas ardeola winter  2000  3,402 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus winter  1988  708 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea winter  2000  16,043 individuals  A4i  Near Threatened 
Sterna nilotica winter  2000  3,427 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Lesser Crested Tern Thalasseus bengalensis winter  2000  1,939 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Saunders's Tern Sternula saundersi winter  2000  203 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Rufiji State Forest Reserve 152,890 protected area overlaps with site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   7%
Forest   92%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
nature conservation and research -
water management -
other -
Notes: Cutting of dead trees for firewood.

References Barker (1936), Bregnballe et al. (1990), Grant (1938), Haldane (1946), Mkamba (1988).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Rufiji Delta. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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