South Africa has some 741 publicly owned protected areas covering about 75,000 km2 representing some 6% of the land area. There are 19 types administered by many different bodies. Only six of the protected areas are larger than 100,000 ha including two National Parks, Kruger and the Kalahari-Gemsbok and 73% are under 5,000 ha. The network is augmented by 197 privately owned protected areas covering a further 9,330 km2.
The country is party to a number of international environmental agreements which include Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands and Whaling.
In common with many countries in Africa, there are a number of environmental issues including the lack of important arterial rivers or lakes requiring extensive water conservation and control measures; growth in water usage which is outpacing supply; pollution of rivers from agricultural runoff and urban discharge; air pollution resulting in acid rain; soil erosion; and desertification.
The 4th International Hornbill Conference was held at Mabula Game Lodge, Bela Bela, South Africa during 6-10 November 2005. The theme of this Conference was The Active Management of Hornbills and their Habitats for Conservation.
6th September 2009: Dyer Island Conservation Trust
The Dyer Island Conservation Trust, in partnership with Cape Nature, has embarked on a programme to introduce artificial African Penguin nests on Dyer Island in order to provide extra shelter for breeding birds. Click on the link above to find out more about their work.
26th June 2008: Save the Flamingo Campaign
Kamfers Dam, which is located just north of Kimberley, South Africa, is under threat from deteriorating water quality due to a badly managed sewage works.
This wetland is home to: the largest permanent population of Lesser Flamingos in southern Africa; the only Lesser Flamingo breeding site in South Africa; one of only four Lesser Flamingo breeding sites in Africa, and six in the world; a host of other endemic and threatened waterbirds. Kamfers Dam is also a South African Natural Heritage Site and an Important Bird Area.
Despite years of negotiating with the Kimberley's municipality (the Sol Plaatje Municipality) to improve the quality of water flowing into Kamfers Dam, the water quality is deteriorating and there are consequently severe health implications for Kamfers Dam's flamingos and the people living in neighbouring suburbs. We have now decided to step up our campaign and we therefore urgently need your assistance in terms of (a) signing our petition and/or (b) donating funds towards this important campaign.
PLEASE visit our website and contribute towards the conservation of Kamfers Dam and this important population of globally "near-threatened" Lesser Flamingos.
Source: Save the Flamingo Campaign
9th April 2008: Avitourism 'takes off' in South Africa
Avitourism (birding’s ecotourism) is proving be one of BirdLife South Africa’s most powerful conservation tools. Tourism has outperformed all other sectors in South Africa’s economy, with two popular ‘Birding Routes’ generating an estimated US$6.4 million annually for local people. As a result, BirdLife South Africa has announced the development of six new Birding Routes in the Western Cape and Cape Town areas.
Birding Routes provide tourists with suggested itineraries, trained local guides and birder-friendly accommodation within areas of spectacular avian diversity. This successful combination is providing sustainable conservation, increased bird awareness and vital employment opportunities for local communities.
More than 140 guides have been trained to date, creating a new generation of conservationists in some of the country’s poorest areas. The benefits speak for themselves, with many guides now speaking of the value of birds – both economically and ecologically. “I am taking bird guiding as my career path. Not only has my family benefited from bird guiding, but the whole of Nyoni village now thinks twice about birds. I am fully involved with the community conservation programme”, said Shusisio Magagula (Amatikulu).
Community projects often fail in their early years due to a lack of support and resources for marketing, managing and fundraising. Part of the Birding Routes success has been setting up of local offices which facilitate joint marketing, bookings and support of the guides, whilst also providing a single point of information and resources for the guide’s clientele.
The new routes will afford tourists guided-access to over 600 bird species, of which 28 are endemic to the Western Cape, such as Cape Siskin Serinus totta, Orange-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia violacea and Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer. A two-week trip could be expected to yield in excess of 350 species.
“The Birding Route system has worked very well in Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal, but the Western Cape’s wonderful variety of birds have enjoyed less of a profile than its other assets such as whales and wine. We’d like to see this change, and these routes could help to achieve it”, said Dr Anton Odendal (BirdLife SA project manager).
By expanding the number of Birding Routes, BirdLife South Africa is proving just how effective avitourism projects can be. Working alongside local people, the routes are successfully linking social, economic and environmental needs – crucial characteristics of effective sustainable development.
Source: BirdLife International
11th November 2007: Runway success for La Mercy Swallows
As five million Barn Swallows migrate from across Europe to roost in South Africa’s Mt Moreland Reedbed, they will be greeted by more than just birdwatchers. In future air traffic controllers at La Mercy Airport will be among those watching the birds come in, if necessary informing pilots of the swallow flocks when coming into land so that collisions can be avoided. The plan to protect the birds will be announced at a special ceremony at the reedbed, attended by BirdLife South Africa.
The decision – one of a number of key mitigation actions announced – was made in response to global outcry last November, when BirdLife outlined its concern about the expansion of La Mercy Airport, in preparation for South Africa’s hosting of World Cup 2010. The threat that planes would pose to the adjacent roost – arguably Africa’s largest – was put across by conservationists and BirdLife Partners throughout Europe, most notably by the RSPB, BirdLife’s Partner in the UK, a country in which a number of the Barn Swallows breed.
The campaign was led by BirdLife South Africa: “This has been a fantastic result, and we’re delighted to report on this outcome after a year of negotiations and meetings. The support of so many people – via letters and petitions – has played an important part.” said Neil Smith, Conservation Manager at BirdLife South Africa.
“Since our campaign started, the Airports Company of South Africa [the organisation behind La Mercy] has really come on board, quickly realising the importance of this site as a reedbed of international significance.”
Following BirdLife’s complaint, consultants were brought in to examine the roosting and flocking behaviour of the swallows, using advanced radar imagery. Their results confirmed that constant monitoring of the swallow movements during take-off and landing of aircraft would be required. The Airports Company of South Africa has now listed a number of measures that it will take to ensure that the roost and the airport can coexist. These include employing environmental management staff to make sure that suitable management of the reedbed continues.
Perhaps most significantly, the same advanced radar technology used to study the movement of the swallows will also be installed in the airport control tower. This will mean that planes can take the option of circling or approaching from another angle when large flocks of swallows form over the reedbed site in the late evening.
“Losing such a valuable site could have affected breeding swallow populations across Europe”, said Dr Ian Burfield, Birdlife’s European Research and Database Manager. “Conserving migratory birds is about more than ensuring one site is protected or well managed. It takes global effort: at breeding sites, at stopover sites during migration, and at important non-breeding sites like this, where large numbers of birds roost.”
The Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica undertakes one of the world’s most remarkable migrations, with many individuals flying thousands of miles in spring to breed in Europe and then repeating the feat in the autumn, to spend the boreal winter in southern Africa. Numbers of Barn Swallows have declined across many European countries, largely as a result of agricultural intensification and simplification.
30th May 2007: 34,000 seabirds killed annually in Africa’s Benguela Current.
BirdLife South Africa and WWF South Africa have released a report that for the first time assesses the impact of longline fishing on vulnerable species foraging in the Benguela Current Large Marine ecosystem, a rich and biodiverse ecosystem that stretches up the west coast of South Africa and the entire Namibian and Angolan coasts.
The report estimates that as many as 34,000 seabirds, 4,200 sea turtles, and over 7 million demersal and pelagic sharks, rays and skates are killed annually. The five migrant pelagic seabird species occurring in the Benguela Current that are most susceptible to the impacts of fishing operations are Black-browed Albatross Thallasarche melanophris, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross T. chlororhynchus and Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross T. carteri, (all Endangered), Shy Albatross T. cauta (Near Threatened) and White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis (Vulnerable). Also seriously affected is the Cape Gannet Morus capensis, a Benguela endemic now listed as Vulnerable.
“This report provides a platform from which informed decisions can be made that will reduce the impact on these threatened species in the region,” says Samantha Petersen, manager of BirdLife South Africa's Seabird Programme and the WWF Responsible Fisheries Programme, and author of papers in the report covering the impact on seabirds, and on measures to mitigate seabird mortality. The report also provides practical recommendations, such as the use of tori or bird-scaring lines with attached streamers which scare birds away from the baited hooks until they are under the water. Other measures which are simple to implement include the use of thawed rather than frozen bait and sufficiently weighted lines – both of which increase the sink rate of the main line; and setting the lines over the side of the boat, so that the hooks and bait are fully submerged by the time they reach the stern, where the birds congregate.
The report makes specific recommendations for the three countries involved. In South Africa, a critical concern is the low level of compliance with fisheries permit conditions, which require fishers to use bird-scaring lines – although in an encouraging development, a South African vessel was recently fined R2,500 ($350 USD) for failing to use them. In Namibia, “bycatch” mitigation needs to be included in fishing regulations. In Angola, where artisanal fishermen deliberately catch Cape Gannets and White-chinned Petrels for food, efforts should be focused on developing alternative sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities. “The project has also been active in raising the level of awareness about this issue within the fishing industry, with workshops and training programmes,” says Petersen.
Petersen says the findings of the report need to be taken seriously by the governments of South Africa, Namibia, and Angola, as well as relevant intergovernmental regional fisheries organisations, as part of their commitment to implement a new Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) by 2010. She explains: “An EAF recognises the need to adopt an ecological approach which considers impacts on both the target and non-target species, as well as direct or indirect ecosystem effects of fishing operations.” She concludes: “Only by maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem can we ensure the sustainability of our fisheries and the survival of our vulnerable marine life.”
Source: BirdLife International News
16th November 2006: ‘World Cup 2010’ development threatens millions of roosting Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica.
A proposed airport development in South Africa is threatening the winter roosting sites of three million Barn Swallows that journey there after spending breeding months in countries across Europe and other parts of the world.
The development is being proposed by the South African government, apparently to meet the demands of hosting World Cup 2010. BirdLife International objects to the plans on the basis of the site’s global importance for Barn Swallow. The site is to be designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) based on the fact that numbers represent more than 1% of the global population of Barn Swallows. This equates to more than 8% of the European breeding population.
The roost-site of the Barn Swallows, the Mount Moreland Reedbed, sits on what would be the flight-path for aircraft landing and taking off at the proposed airport extension. Conservationists from BirdLife South Africa are concerned that safety concerns for visiting aircraft will lead to the clearance of the reedbed, removing the roosting site for the swallows.
“The swallows roost here in such numbers because of the lack of other suitable roosting areas around KwaZulu-Natal. The site is an island in a surrounding sea of sugar cane plantations. It’s vital. If the reedbeds are cleared, it’s unlikely that these Barn Swallows will find suitable roosting places elsewhere” – Neil Smith, Conservation Division, BirdLife South Africa.
Source: BirdLife International
8th February 2006: Wattled Crane Recovery Programme
With the backing of the Johannesburg Zoo, a Wattled Crane recovery programme is underway and set to expand dramatically over the next 5 years. The South African Wattled Crane may be genetically unique from all other Wattled Cranes in Africa, making the success of a captive breeding program ever more urgent to prevent local extinction of this species. This coupled with the fact that Wattled Cranes have the lowest reproductive success of all the crane species, makes the Wattled Crane Recovery Programme one of South Africa’s most crucial and challenging conservation projects.
The Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus is one of only three crane species indigenous to South Africa and is the most critically endangered crane species on the African continent. Due to habitat loss and poor reproductive success there has been a 35% decline in the South African Wattled Crane population over the last two decades. The current in situ population in South Africa consists of approximately 235 (Crane census 2004) birds.
9th January 2006: Race heads towards albatross hotspots
The seven yachts in the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race have now set sail for Australia, on a journey that will take them through some of the world’s greatest albatross hotspots.
The Prince Edward Islands are home to the first major albatross colonies that the race will come near to after leaving Cape Town. These islands, which belong to South Africa, are uninhabited, apart from scientific researchers. Marion Island, the larger, and Prince Edward Island are about 1,200 miles south-east of Cape Town. The islands are home to thousands of pairs of breeding albatrosses. Most of them will have young on the nest and will be actively scouring the ocean for food, some travelling thousands of miles from their nests in a single journey.
Two of the species that breed here are classified as Endangered. The Dark-mantled Sooty Albatross Phoebetria fusca breeds on both islands, and the 2,750 pairs represent half the Indian Ocean population and 21 per cent of the world population. The Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross Diomedea (chlororhynchos) carteri breeds on the smaller Prince Edward Island and the 6,000 pairs are 17 per cent of both Indian Ocean and world populations.
The population of Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans on the islands (2,700 pairs) represent nearly half of the Indian Ocean breeding population, and the commonest species is the Grey-headed Albatross D. chrysostoma with 7,700 breeding pairs.
Source: BirdLife International News