12 Sep 2015

New report shows one-third of South African IBAs are in imminent danger

West Coast National Park and Saldanha Islands IBA ©Jackie During
By BirdLife South Africa

One-third of the 112 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) of South Africa are facing imminent danger of irreversible damage, according to a new report published today by BirdLife South Africa. The most prevalent threats are invasive alien plant species which push out indigenous species, the modification of habitats through incorrect burning practices, agricultural expansion and mismanagement. Habitats in unprotected IBAs in particular are deteriorating at a concerning rate, most especially in grasslands, wetlands and fynbos but protected IBAs are also facing a diverse set of threats. The 42 IBAs with the highest threats will be included in BirdLife International´s list of IBAs in Danger, the global list of priority sites identified for urgent action.

Front cover page of the IBA Status Report

This South African IBA Status Report is accompanied by a revised IBA Directory, building on and up-dating the first such inventory published in 1998. It provides updated information of the most important aspect of each of these 112 IBAs, including the geography and climate of the area, the list of the bird species found at the IBA, the biggest threats to the site, and what conservation action is taking place to secure the IBA. This publication can be used by conservation practitioners and planners to prioritise their work, by developers who need to understand the sensitivity of an area, and can even be used by bird enthusiasts to plan a birding trip.

Golden Gate Highlands National Park IBA ©Dominic Henry

The 112 IBAs in South Africa are the last stand for bird conservation on a landscape level. Protecting these sites has benefits not only for South Africa’s birds, but also for other animals, plants and the vital ecological services these sites provide to people. These services include providing us with fresh water, managing floods and disease, and providing grazing lands for livestock farming. Conserving IBAs is also important for attaining our government’s environmental commitments like the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Target 11 that calls for the expansion of terrestrial Protected Areas by at least 17%, and the Convention on Migratory Species. Therefore, their deteriorating status is a very high concern which requires immediate attention from government agencies and other stakeholders.

While both these publications are milestones for bird conservation, they need to be seen as the spearhead which will now be used to lobby, plan and implement effective conservation for birds, their habitats and other biodiversity.

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Both the revised IBA Directory and IBA Status Report can be bought in hard copy from BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme (011 789 1122,, or the electronic versions can be downloaded for free