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Location South Africa, Western Cape
Central coordinates 18o 22.00' East  33o 49.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A4i, A4ii, A4iii
Area 574 ha
Altitude 0 - 30m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife South Africa



Summary Robben Island is South Africa's largest coastal island and lies 11 km from Table Bay harbour in Cape Town. This oval 5 x 2 km island rises 30 m above sea level at its highest point. The island contains African Penguins Spheniscus demersus and large numbers of breeding Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus.

Site description Robben Island, South Africa’s largest coastal island (5 × 2 km), lies 11 km from Table Bay harbour in Cape Town and 7 km from Bloubergstrand (its closest point to the mainland). The island was one of the first areas in South Africa to be colonized by European settlers, and has been extensively altered through a long history of human inhabitation, exploitation and use. The terrestrial vegetation is dominated by non-native Acacia and Myoporum and plantations of Pinus and Eucalyptus, dense stands of which cover large tracts inland.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. Spheniscus demersus recolonized Robben Island in 1983 after an absence of about 180 years. Numbers of penguins have increased from nine pairs in 1983 to 2,000 pairs in 1992 and to over 4,000 pairs in 1996. It is thought that birds may be relocating here from Dyer Island (IBA ZA099), where the population has decreased markedly since the mid-1980s. The breeding area was only a few square metres in 1983, but had extended to over 55 ha by 1996. The main nesting areas are under the shade of trees or bushes along the north-east sector of the island. Recently, one pair of penguins was found breeding in the south. The island also holds the largest numbers of breeding Phalacrocorax neglectus in the Western Cape and significant populations of P. coronatus, Haematopus moquini, Larus hartlaubii and Sterna bergii.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among reptiles, Bradypodion pumilum (CR) and the west-coast endemic Scelotes gronovii (LR/nt) occur on the island.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
African Penguin Spheniscus demersus resident  4,000-5,000 breeding pairs  A1, A4ii  Endangered 
African Penguin Spheniscus demersus winter  8,000-14,000 individuals  A1, A4ii  Endangered 
Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis resident  1,000-3,000 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Cape Cormorant Phalacrocorax capensis winter  5,000-10,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus resident  57-106 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Bank Cormorant Phalacrocorax neglectus winter  180-250 individuals  A1, A4i  Endangered 
Crowned Cormorant Microcarbo coronatus resident  40-108 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Crowned Cormorant Microcarbo coronatus winter  300 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini resident  20-35 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
African Oystercatcher Haematopus moquini winter  40-90 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Hartlaub's Gull Larus hartlaubii breeding  1,000-4,309 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Hartlaub's Gull Larus hartlaubii winter  5,000-10,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii breeding  2,300 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii winter  500-3,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - seabirds resident  20,000-49,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed low
unset
-

Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: large scale happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Climate change and severe weather storms and floods likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases introduced genetic material happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity likely in short term (within 4 years) majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Natural system modifications other ecosystem modifications likely in short term (within 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution industrial & military effluents - oil spills happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Residential and commercial development housing and urban areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Residential and commercial development tourism and recreation areas happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Transportation and service corridors flight paths happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Transportation and service corridors roads and railroads happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Shrubland Shrubland - Cape (fynbos)  0 0 very poor (< 40%) very poor (< 40%) very unfavourable

Spheniscus demersus African Penguin 5000 1669 breeding pairs 34 very unfavourable
Phalacrocorax neglectus Bank Cormorant 106 93 breeding pairs 88 near favourable
Microcarbo coronatus Crowned Cormorant 108 74 breeding pairs 69 unfavourable
Haematopus moquini African Oystercatcher 35 250 breeding pairs 100 favourable

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Shrubland - Cape (fynbos)  -
Marine Coastal/Supratidal   -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research 100%
other -
tourism/recreation -
unknown -

References Adams (1991), Branch (1991), Brooke and Prins (1986), Cooper (1981), Cooper and Berruti (1989), Cooper and Brooke (1986), Cooper et al. (1983, 1984), Crawford (1995), Crawford and Dyer (1995), Crawford and Shelton (1978, 1981), Crawford et al. (1982a,b, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995a,c), Frost et al. (1976), Furness and Cooper (1982), Hockey (1983), Hockey and Hallinan (1981), Kriel et al. (1980), Little (1995), Morant et al. (1981), Randall et al. (1980), Shelton et al. (1982), Siegfried (1982), Summers and Cooper (1977);Williams et al. (1990), Wilson et al. (1988)

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Robben Island. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/08/2015

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