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Location Zambia, Central,Southern
Central coordinates 27o 16.00' East  15o 45.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 650,500 ha
Altitude 980 - 1,065m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Zambian Ornithological Society (Partner Designate)

Site description A vast area of swamp, open lagoon and seasonally inundated flood-plain surrounding the Kafue river as it flows from west to east before reaching the Zambezi escarpment. When wet, the alluvial clays render much of the area inaccessible and extensive cracks form on drying. The swamp is dominated by Typha and there are only scattered pockets of Cyperus papyrus. The flats are bordered by termitaria and munga woodland. At its widest point, the area liable to flooding is some 70 km across. Hydroelectric dams have been constructed at either end of the flats, although Itezhi-Tezhi (at the western end) is more important for regulating the flow and Kafue Gorge (at the eastern end) generates most of the power. An initial agreement to simulate the annual inundation has not always been followed, especially when there have been fears of water shortages. However, rainfall permitting, the cycle has been ‘smoothed’; thus the simulated flood is not as high, but lasts longer than it would under natural conditions. Many fishermen live on the numerous small islands in the centre of the swamps and other communities exist around the edges, although some of these are somewhat seasonal depending on the water-level.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. Very large concentrations of resident and migratory waterbirds occur and many species breed in large colonies deep within the swamps. Grus carunculatus is common here all-year-round, and this is the single most important area for the species anywhere, with 3,200 individuals counted in October 1983 (here considered equivalent to more than 1,000 breeding pairs). Among the other species of global conservation concern, Gallinago media occurs in large numbers, Egretta vinaceigula is uncommon, but almost certainly breeds, Circus macrourus visits in good numbers, Falco naumanni is numerous at times and Crex crex is probably common, while Ardeola idae and Glareola nordmanni are rare non-breeding visitors. Lybius chaplini is local, in small numbers. Phoenicopterus minor and Gyps coprotheres are both vagrants to the area. Counts from earlier decades for some of the waterbirds listed in the Box (meeting the A4i criterion) exceed recent counts, for instance >6,000 Pelecanus onocrotalus (Nov 1971), >5,000 Plegadis falcinellus (Dec 1975), >100,000 Plectropterus gambensis (Nov 1972), >29,000 Anas erythrorhyncha (Aug 1971), >5,000  Netta erythrophthalma (Jan 1973), and >50,000 Glareola pratincola (Apr 1972, May 1980). Other waterbirds which are often found in notable numbers include Ciconia abdimii, Fulica cristata and Vanellus armatus. Particularly numerous in the dry season are Eremopterix leucotis, Calandrella cinerea and Oenanthe pileata, when other characteristic species include Neotis denhami and Pterocles gutturalis.

Non-bird biodiversity: A wide variety of mammals are known to occur, including Tragelaphus spekii (LR/nt) and, most notably, the endemic subspecies Kobus leche kafuensis(the largest protected population of this species anywhere).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Sarkidiornis melanotos winter  1994  20,698 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Fulvous Whistling-duck Dendrocygna bicolor winter  1994  58,384 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis winter  1994  4,133 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca winter  3,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Red-billed Teal Anas erythrorhyncha winter  1999  10,407 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Hottentot Teal Spatula hottentota winter  2001  3,930 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma winter  2000  3,068 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis winter  1998  667 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Openbill Anastomus lamelligerus winter  1999  15,000-20,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus winter  1999  4,097 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  2001  1,595 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis winter  1995  14,126 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Slaty Egret Egretta vinaceigula resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Mesophoyx intermedia winter  1,000 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides winter  1997  1,506 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  1993  2,223 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca winter  2000  2,933 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus winter  1994  3,086 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Long-tailed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus winter  10,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni winter  common  A1  Least Concern 
Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Corncrake Crex crex winter  present  A1  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus winter  1995  1,171 individuals  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus resident  1,000 breeding pairs  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Long-toed Lapwing Vanellus crassirostris winter  2001  1,395 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius winter  2000  5,000-6,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus winter  1995  30,000-35,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Snipe Gallinago media winter  300 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Ruff Calidris pugnax winter  2001  71,285 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola winter  2000  17,070 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni winter  100 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida winter  1997  1,226 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus winter  2,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris winter  2000  520 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Coppery-tailed Coucal Centropus cupreicaudus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Racquet-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Böhm's Bee-eater Merops boehmi resident  1998  rare  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Wren-warbler Camaroptera undosa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Angola Babbler Turdoides hartlaubii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Meves's Glossy-starling Lamprotornis mevesii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-headed Black-chat Myrmecocichla arnoti resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia talatala resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Firefinch Lagonosticta nitidula resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Twinspot Indigobird Vidua codringtoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah Vidua obtusa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fuelleborn's Longclaw Macronyx fuellebornii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   
Miombo Pied Barbet Tricholaema frontata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Zambian Barbet Lybius chaplini resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed medium

Biological resource use hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - unintentional effects (species is not the target) happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Energy production and mining renewable energy happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - unspecified species happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - large dams happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A management plan exists but it is out of date or not comprehensive  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Blue Lagoon National Park 45,000 protected area contained by site 45,000  
Kafue Flats Game Management Area 517,500 protected area contained by site 517,500  
Kafue Flats: Lochinvar and Blue Lagoon Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 600,500 protected area contained by site 600,500  
Lochinvar National Park 41,000 protected area contained by site 41,000  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   14%
Shrubland   48%
Grassland   12%
Forest   23%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture -
forestry -
hunting -
nature conservation and research -
water management -

References Bolnick (1995), Clarke and Loe (1974), Douthwaite (1974, 1977, 1978), Dowsett (1966), Howard (1989).

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

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