email a friend
printable version
Location Tanzania, Zanzibar and Pemba
Central coordinates 39o 48.00' East  5o 10.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 101,400 ha
Altitude 0 - 79m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description Pemba lies 55 km east of the African mainland, from which it is separated by the Pemba Channel, in excess of 800 m deep. Pemba is essentially an oceanic island, having been isolated from mainland Africa for at least one million years. This isolation is reflected in its avifauna and the presence of an endemic bat closely related to similar species on other islands in the Indian Ocean. Pemba is administered from Unguja (the main island of Zanzibar), 35 km to the south-west. The island is indented on all sides, with numerous offshore islands, many large enough to be inhabited. It is a low island, but has numerous low, rolling hills and associated valleys in central and western areas. There is a thin strip of coral-rag habitat along the eastern edge of the island, containing some natural vegetation, but there are only two small patches of forest, totalling less than 800 ha: Ngezi in the north-west and Mwita Mkuu in the north-east. There are also considerable ‘forests’ of mangroves in the protected creeks and extensive areas of open mudflats at low tides. The rainfall generally exceeds 1,300 mm per annum, with no months totally dry.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. Only 132 species are listed for the island; an indication of Pemba’s long isolation from the mainland. Apart from the four endemic species, there are two endemic races, Accipiter tachiro pembaensis and Lamprotornis corruscus vaughani. There are a few records of Ardeola idae from the 1940s, but it is likely to be only a rare visitor now. There is also one old record of Gallinago media. Treron pembaensis is widespread and locally common. In addition, there is an introduced population of Padda oryzivora, classified as globally threatened (Vulnerable) in its native Indonesia.

Non-bird biodiversity: There are three endemic races of snake, two endemic species and three endemic races of lizard, an endemic amphibian and an endemic fruit bat Pteropus voelzkowi (CR).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Pemba Green-pigeon Treron pembaensis resident  2000  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Pemba Scops-owl Otus pembaensis resident  2000  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 
Pemba White-eye Zosterops vaughani resident  2000  present  A1, A2  Least Concern 
Pemba Sunbird Nectarinia pembae resident  2000  present  A1, A2  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Misali Island Area de Conservacion 230,000 protected area overlaps with site 0  
Msitu Mkuu Forest Reserve 200,561 protected area contained by site 100  
Ngezi-Vumawimbi Forest Reserve 109,518 protected area contained by site 1,095  
Pemba Channel Conservation Area Area de Conservacion 93,673 protected area overlaps with site 0  
Ras Kiuyu Forest Reserve 18,000 protected area contained by site 75  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   100%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -

Further web sources of information 

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This site has been identified as an AZE due to it containing a Critically Endangered or Endangered species with a limited range.

References Koenders (1992), Moreau and Pakenham (1941), Rodgers et al. (1986).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Pemba Island. Downloaded from on 24/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife