Mass rescue of Lesser Flamingo chicks anticipated!

Birdlife SA and Ekapa Mining have released the following statement: 

1. It is the unfortunate responsibility of BirdLife South Africa and Ekapa Mining, following their intensive work at Kamfers Dam during the past month, to announce that a mass rescue of over 5000 Lesser Flamingo chicks will very likely be necessary in the next two weeks.
2. Despite a recent increased in the flow of sewage effluent into Kamfers Dam, the water level of the dam is dropping rapidly and it is highly probable that the dam will dry up completely in the next two weeks.
3. Further compounding this problem, BirdLife South Africa has been monitoring the productivity of blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) in the dam using remote sensing methods and in consultation with specialists. We predict that a rapid drop in the density of algae in the dam is imminent – possibly within a week if there is no rain. Blue-green algae are the primary food source for flamingos at Kamfers Dam so the delicately balanced system that supports the Lesser Flamingo population may well collapse before the dam dries up completely.
4. Our most recent counts indicate that 5250 Lesser Flamingo chicks are currently present in the crèche at Kamfers Dam. The age of these birds varies from about 20-60 days old. We estimate that conditions at the dam – both water levels and algal densities – would have to remain favourable for at least another two months for all these youngsters to develop to the point that they can fly with the adults to alternative feeding sites.
5. A concerted effort has been made during the past few weeks to address the effluent reticulation problems that have so drastically reduced the flow of water into Kamfers Dam. Despite limited initial success, current inflows are not sufficient to stem very rapid evaporation rates.
6. Storms in the area during the first half of February were encouraging but associated rainfall was not sufficient to fill the dam. Unfortunately, there is no significant rainfall forecast for the next two weeks, while temperatures are predicted to be high.
7. The details of the current situation (and the possible, imminent need for a mass rescue
operation) has been reported to Les Abrahams, the Acting Head of Department of the Northern Cape Department of Environment & Nature Conservation, and to the Department of Environmental Affairs. We have suggested that an urgent meeting be held in Kimberley, with all relevant role-players present. The main aim of this gathering will be to discuss and assess options for the immediate future of the flamingos at Kamfers Dam, which probably include the need to capture, housing and care for >5000 Lesser Flamingo chicks. The details of this meeting will be announced on Monday 25 February.
8. It should be noted that Kamfers Dam is at the current time no longer suitable for the release of the c. 1000 flamingo chicks held in facilities in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban.
9. Should it be required, the rescue of more than 5000 flamingo chicks would be an intervention of unprecedented scale and complexity. It will present massive logistical, veterinary, husbandry, rehabilitation and financial challenges, and will have to involve expert biologists, zoo-keepers and veterinarians, supported by a large number of dedicated volunteer carers, and coordinated with military precision to stand any chance of success.

1. BirdLife South Africa has conducted constant, on-the-ground monitoring of the Kamfers Dam’s flamingos, and especially of the breeding colony, for the last four weeks. The aims of this monitoring effort have been (a) to determine signs of nest or chick abandonment in the
breeding colony and advise on the need for further rescue operations, (b) to try to minimise
disturbance of the colony, and (c) to monitor water levels, algal productivity and overall flamingo numbers. We have also liaised closely with Ekapa Mining on ways to source additional water for Kamfers Dam, in collaboration the Sol Plaatje Municipality.
2. BirdLife South Africa and Ekapa Mining have developed a sophisticated, remote method of counting the flamingo chicks in the crèche(s).
3. Deep machine algorithm learning methods were used to analyse the high-resolution images taken from a drone that has flown over Kamfers Dam at high level, thus ensuring no disturbance of the dam’s flamingos. These drone flights have been done with the approval of the Civil Aviation Authority, and have yielded an accurate count of 5250 Lesser Flamingo chicks currently present on the dam.
4. Over the past few weeks the Sol Plaatje Municipality and Ekapa Mining have worked hard to address the effluent reticulation issues affecting water levels in the dam. A gravitational feed from Galeshewe to the Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works was repaired which resulted in an initial inflow of about 24 megalitres/day, but unfortunately this has now declined to and stabilised at about 14 megalitres/day. The current evaporation rate is estimated at about 22 megalitres/day. Further repairs to the reticulation system, including the pipelines and pump stations, will take several months, and no additional inflow of effluent is anticipated before early-May 2019. The Homevale Waste Water Treatment Works remains non-functional.
5. BirdLife South Africa and Ekapa Mining remain extremely concerned that in excess in excess of 20 megalitres/day of raw sewerage effluent if flowing into the veld at Platfontein farm, just west of Kimberley.
6. BirdLife South Africa (including its CEO, Mark Anderson), the Save the Flamingo Association, Ekapa Mining and/or the Department of Environment & Nature Conservation have, in one way or another, been involved in the study, monitoring and conservation of Lesser Flamingos at Kamfers Dam since the early-1990s. During the past 13 years this work has largely been to address the threats to Kamfers Dam and its flamingo population, and especially to address ongoing problems with the quality and quantity of water supplying the dam.
7. The on-site monitoring during the past month has been conducted by BirdLife South Africa staff, contractors and volunteers, especially Dr Andrew Jenkins, Tania Anderson and Robin Colyn, and with assistance from Ekapa Mining’s Jahn Hohne, Peter Hohne, Howard Marsden, and Greg Watcham.
8. BirdLife South Africa commends the various facilities in Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban, and their staff and volunteers who have worked exceptionally hard over the last four weeks to rear the chicks rescued from Kamfers Dam since 24 January.
9. BirdLife South Africa acknowledges the people and organisations who have supported its on-site work during the past month, especially Ekapa Mining and the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust. Several organisations, bird clubs and private individuals have generously donated money to support our work at Kamfers Dam. We are also grateful for the support received from Herbert and Brenda Booth, Kamfers Dam’s landowners.
10. For further information about Kamfers Dam’s flamingos, please contact Mark Anderson (CEO of BirdLife South Africa) at


An Incredible Journey


She’s the pilot.  The sole passenger.  The navigator.  The engine.  The refueller.  She’s Flight 95773.

It is the first day of autumn, one year ago.  She lifts off on an epic 14 560 km journey.  Part of this will be a five-day non-stop 5 912 km flight, mostly over the Indian Ocean, a journey one scientist describes as “amazing”.

She’s an Amur Falcon, a small bird of prey not much bigger than a pigeon.  Falcon 95773 is built for long-haul flight.  Her sleek tapered wings power her to speeds of more than 50 km/h and allow her to glide on thermals for long distances.  The small shark-toothed markings on the feathers of her breast reveal she is an adult.

What makes this Amur Falcon special is that sitting on her back is a matchbox-sized GPS transmitter that will beam data to several satellites orbiting 850 km above the earth.  Tracking 95773 will be expensive.  The 5g transmitter on her back costs R26 000.  Add another R26 000 to download the information from the satellites.  She is one of 10 falcons that were trapped in Newcastle last January and fitted with transmitters.

The people behind the venture don’t believe in giving birds names, but they have given her, and nine other falcons, numbers.  Each is the ID of the GPS Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT) strapped to their backs.  Hers is PTT 95773.

The bird lovers and scientists behind the venture are hoping these small birds with their tiny transmitters will solve one of ornithology’s great mysteries.  Where 95773 is heading on that first day of autumn is known.  The mystery is her route, not her destination: the breeding grounds of Mongolia.  For a long time ornithologists have debated the route that Amur Falcons take to Mongolia.  There have been attempts to plot the transcontinental migration, but all ornithologists have been able to rely on are odd sightings through east Africa and the Middle East.  Whole legs of the journey have been missing.  But advances in technology and the work of a handful of amateurs will change this.  Here’s how the story goes.

On January 10 last year, Professor Bernd-Ulrich Meyburg arrives in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, from Germany.  He’s a plastic surgeon with a passion for birds.  Meyburg has made a name for himself in birding circles from the work he’s done in studying the migration paths of birds of prey.  He says a book about the Lesser Spotted Eagle sparked his passion as a schoolboy in West Germany.  On reading the book, the youngster becomes fascinated with the bird’s long migration to southern Africa.

By 1994 the fall of the Berlin Wall and access to satellite telemetry finally allow Meyburg to fulfil his childhood dream.  He and his wife, Christina, fit transmitters to four adult Lesser Spotted Eagles and track the complete migration of one of the birds to Zambia.  Transmitters become smaller and smaller and he then tracks the migrations of other raptors.  In 2008 Meyburg is given a prototype transmitter to test.  It weighs about the same as a teaspoon of sugar – just 5g.  On August 9, 2008 he fits the transmitter to an adult female Eurasian Hobby he catches near Berlin.  Meyburg follows the Hobby’s migration to Angola.  It flies via the island of Elba, south into North Africa and arrives in Angola 49 days later.  With this success, he wants to try the transmitter on something even smaller.

His choice: the Amur Falcon.  His destination: Newcastle.  The reason: just 1 km from the town centre is the largest-known roost of Amur Falcons in the world.  Between December and March every year, an estimated 26 000 Amur Falcons take up residence in the tall pine trees that line Allen Street, a major thoroughfare through the town.  The ideal spot to catch the falcons.  The problem: how to do it.  About two months before he arrives in South Africa, Meyburg approaches Birdlife Northern Natal.  “He asked us if we would be able to capture the falcons using high-altitude nets,” veteran bird ringer Rina Pretorius remembers.

At the time Pretorius knows a lot about mist nets and catching birds, but she’s never heard of an Amur Falcon being caught using these nets.  The problem: they fly too high, and if the birders want to catch them they will need to raise the nets tens of metres alongside the pine trees.  Electricity giant Eskom and funding from the local municipality come to their rescue.  Cables are strung through the trees, long poles erected and then they put in a pulley system to hoist the nets into the air.  By December 12 they are ready for a trial run.  Just after dusk Pretorius and the team achieve a South African first.  They net their first Amur Falcon.  By the end of the evening they have caught five more.  Each bird is ringed and released.

It is time to call in the Meyburgs.  Bernd and Christina arrive in Newcastle on January 10 and that evening join the bird catchers.  They spread out their nets and prepare to raise them as Meyburg lays out the tools and transmitters on the table in the lapa.  They are ready.  In the fading light columns of falcons, thousands strong, reel above the roost site.  So many that the standing joke among the ringers is not to look up with your mouth open…To draw the birds closer to the nets, the team uses a lure, a method known in ringing circles as “callback”.  They have recorded the call of the Amur – kew kew kew… kew kew kew – and play it loudly on Pretorius’s bakkie sound system.

“The idea,” explains Sylvia Francis, another ringer, “is that birds follow (other) birds that make the most noise because they believe they have the fullest crops.  What they plan to do is roost close by and then follow that particular flock, believing they know where there is a lot of food.”  Soon the falcons begin descending, darting among the trees looking for a branch for the night.  Then the mist net catches the first of four birds, including 95773, trapped that evening.  The catchers untangle the birds from the net, place each in a small cloth bag, and take them to the lapa.

Falcon 95773 is the first to be weighed.  “Bernd told me that I could do the first bird, because I had prepared all the infrastructure,” Pretorius says.  The catchers have a strict rule: so as not to hinder the flight of the bird, the transmitter cannot weigh more than 3 percent of the bird’s mass.  95773 comes in at 160g.  “Bernd suddenly got very excited, his eyes never left that bird,” remembers Pretorius.  She rings 95773, measures her and takes a blood sample.  Meyburg takes over.  He fits a small wire harness across the bird’s chest to hold the transmitter high on her back and positions the antenna to follow the contour of her tail.  This is when she becomes 95773.  When they’re done, Pretorius, mindful of the raptor’s sharp beak, carries the bird into the open.  Pretorius places her on a chair to give her a few moments to recover from the ordeal of her capture.  Then 95773 lifts off into the night.

Five days later they meet their target of 10 birds: eight females and two males.  With the first part of their mission over, Bernd and Christina Meyburg return to Germany.  This is too early for the launch of her migration, but soon 95773 begins revealing part of the hidden life of an Amur Falcon.  “We found out that she moved a lot at night between roosts,” says Pretorius.  “The Roberts book said that they hunt only 50km from their roost, but we found her travelling to Memel and Standerton.”  In Germany it is Christina Meyburg’s job to access the satellite website and download the data.  The first glitch comes soon after the 10 birds are released: three of the transmitters stop working.  No one knows why: it might be that there is a glitch with the transmitters, or it could be that three birds have died.

But not 95773.  Her transmitter keeps beaming data, and what they learn is that for two months she wanders, criss-crossing northern KwaZulu-Natal, hopping between the different roosts, and then she moves into Swaziland.  Amur Falcons favour open grasslands, where they gather in big flocks and feed on insects like dragonflies and flying ants.  Sometimes they go for bigger prey, taking barn swallows on the wing.  Meyburg and company suspect she is building up vital fat reserves for her journey ahead.  Ornithologists refer to these rest stops as stopovers, migratory bird refuelling stations, where a bird can take time out to carbo-load for the next leg of the journey.

Then, at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 21 last year, the satellite sends the team the data that they have been waiting for.  95773 has begun her migration to the breeding grounds in Mongolia.

High above the Lebombo Mountains on the Swaziland border, she crossed into Mozambique.  The mountains fell away and then she flew over the flat mopane forests of western Mozambique.  She pushed northwards, guided by something we don’t yet understand.  95773’s flight across Mozambique was swift.  For 24 hours, she kept on the wing, covering 1 036 km.  Her journey cut northwards at an average speed of 43.2km/h.  For a while she stuck close to the Zimbabwean border before turning slightly east towards Tanzania.  After a night of flight she landed in southern Tanzania.

For the next eight days she slowly made her way north.  She passed through Tanzania and then Kenya, and on March 30, arrived in southern Somalia.  There she stopped for a couple of days.  She began moving again on April 5 and progressed slowly into Central Somalia.  There again she stopped to refuel, this time for five days.  95773 would have hunted, filling her crop with insects.  She’d need the high protein found in the locusts, flying ants and dragonflies to give her the energy for the hardest and most dangerous part of her journey.

Back in South Africa the scientists waited, too – for the first time they would “witness” the transoceanic crossing of an Amur Falcon.  For the first time the transmitter would tell us exactly where she was when she struck out across the featureless blue ocean.  But this still left two of the great migratory mysteries unsolved.

The first of these was: how did she navigate?  What was the guiding hand that took these long-distance travellers over thousands of kilometres to their exact destination?  Somewhere deep inside the Amurs is an invisible compass that scientists have yet to find and understand.  One theory is that it might take its bearing from the sun.  But how then did it fly so accurately through the night?

Dr Craig Symes of Wits University speculates: “They possibly rely on celestial cues, or magnetic fields, or a combination of both.  It’s also possible that different birds use different methods of navigation.”  And then there’s the second mystery the transmitter could not answer.  Do birds sleep while they fly?  Some biologists believe that migratory birds forgo sleep during these long flights.  Others suspect these birds have an autopilot switch that controls their flight and takes over navigation while the rest of the brain sleeps.

On the morning of Friday April 16, after her five-day rest, 95773 began a journey scientists have called “amazing.”  She lifted off and began flying a course parallel to the Somali coast.  Below her she would have seen dry scrub land as she passed within a couple of hundred kilometres west of the Somalia capital Mogadishu.  Not far from the northern Somalia town of Ufeyn the falcon, with a wingspan about the length of an average home PC, and weighing a little more than a tin of tuna, left the horn of Africa.

Ahead of her was the blue of the sea, the Yemen gulf and an ocean crossing of more than 3 000 km.  On the next day, Saturday April 17, she was tracked close to the Arabian coast at 6.46 a.m. South African time.  Just before landfall on the Oman coast her compass told her to change direction, she turned slightly to her right, and the Arab peninsula fell behind her.

On Sunday April 18, two days after she had struck out across the sea, 95773’s position at 6.46 a.m. was near the Arabian coast.  On Monday April 19 the satellite placed her 270 km southwest of Karachi, Pakistan at 5.45.  Her oceanic crossing was nearly over.  Hours later 95733 was again over land.  But she flew on.  95773 had made the crossing in two days and five hours.  She was the fastest of the seven remaining birds that continued to be tracked, the first to reach the shores of India.

On Tuesday April 20, at 4:12 a.m., satellites had her logged in eastern India; she was still on the move.  And then on Wednesday April 21 she was near Mandalay in eastern Burma.  Here 95773’s feet finally touched land, or more likely the branch of a tree.

The non-stop journey of five days had taken her an incredible 5 912 km at just under 50km/h.  But her journey was not yet over.  After a six-day stop, she continued moving slowly north east.  On May 8 95773 arrived.  Her transmitter recorded that she was in the middle of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of Xilin Gol, about 450 km north of the Chinese capital of Beijing.

This was the heart of the Amur Falcons’ breeding grounds.  She had travelled 14 560 km and she was just half way through her journey.

Some of the other birds hadn’t even made the ocean trip in one go.  A male called 95775 had stopped over on Socotra Island, in the Arabian Sea for a couple of hours, before resuming his flight.  “Maybe he had a girlfriend there he stopped to visit,” laughs Rina Pretorius, the bird lover who had helped trap 95775 and several other Amurs in Newcastle.  His crossing was the longest at two days and 18 hours.

Shortly after 95773 arrived in Mongolia, the German bird lover who sparked the research, Dr Bernd-U Meyburg and his wife Christina, battled to get a fix on the birds from the weak signals.  So no one knows what 95773 did for the next two months.  Perhaps she found a mate, and reared a clutch of chicks, as millions of other Amur Falcons were doing in Mongolia.

Now the team had its longest wait.  Would she fly home?  They would know only when the transmission improved.
In late October an e-mail landed in Pretorius’s inbox.  An excited Meyburg told Pretorius 95773 was on the move again.  She and the other falcons had taken flight and were now in an area where all seven transmitters could beam information to the network of satellites high above.  The wait had ended.  Now science had the opportunity to record the full complete migration of an Amur Falcon.

On October 28, satellites picked 95773 up in Assam, in Northern India.  The large female falcon was the first to leave, again leading the charge.  From Assam 95773 passed over Nagpur and Bombay, then across the Indian Ocean.  This time her ocean passage was shorter, a distance of just over 2 500 km, which she covered in two days of non- stop flight.

With landfall came the acacia scrub-land of Somalia, as 95773 turned south flying through East Africa.  Like before, her journey was a mix of quick sprints and lengthy stop-overs.  She cut her way further inland towards central Africa.  Pretorius followed her progress as she inched closer to Newcastle.  On the evening of November 27, she slept over in southern Zimbabwe, just 75 km from the border of South Africa.  Twelve days later she crossed into South Africa.  On December 11, she slept at Samcor Park in Pretoria and two days later satellites recorded her in Volksrust.  The Newcastle roost now just 50 km away.

Three days later Pretorius received Meyburg’s latest e-mail update.  Pretorius grabbed her camera, binoculars and rushed to her bakkie.  The e-mail contained co-ordinates and with the help of Google Maps the veteran bird-ringer got a fix.  Her chances were slim that mid morning.  But she still drove through Newcastle towards the suburb of Lennoxton.  She found the tall lone pine tree.  Two kilometres away lay the roost from where, 11 months earlier, 95773 had taken off from a camping chair, carrying some special cargo.  The tree was empty.

“I just wanted to see the bird, I was hoping maybe I would find her sitting on a nearby telephone line and I would identify her from the transmitter on her back, “she recalls.  But Pretorius had missed 95773.  The night before, in the rain, 95773 had landed in that pine tree in Newcastle.

Her touchdown ended one of ornithology’s greatest mysteries – a team of amateur birdwatchers had mapped the epic flight of an Amur falcon.  95773 had come full circle.

The falcon had landed.

Submitted by David Shreeve

Beach Clean-up


Birdlife Overberg will be conducting a beach clean-up at Onrus on Saturday 8 December and HBC members are welcome to join them.  Plastic bags and gloves will be provided and participants should meet at the Onrus beach parking lot at 7:00 am.


Happening from the 15th February 2019 to 17th February 2019


The SANParks Honorary Rangers West Coast Region in conjunction with the West Coast National Park (WCNP) invites you to participate in the WADER BASH 2019.

The SanParks Honorary Rangers are a group of passionate unpaid volunteers who give freely of their time and skills to support conservation in South African National Parks. This event serves to promote the WCNP and also improve knowledge of birding and conservation in general.

Here is your chance to experience birdlife in the WCNP which includes the Langebaan lagoon, a RamsarSite – a birding hotspot for migrant waders of international importance. All levels of birding experiences are catered for and your team of 4 accompanied by a bird expert will try to identify as many birds in a 24 hour period as possible. This fun-filled weekend offers you excellent birding, camaraderie, closer access to the Lagoon and a gentle competition in a beautiful setting.

The Wader Bash starts with a briefing and meeting your fellow participants on Friday afternoon at 17h00, followed by the 24 hour period from 17h30 on Friday afternoon until 17h30 on Saturday afternoon. You will then be a guest at the special prize-giving dinner at Geelbek on Saturday evening, and at Sunday morning’s entertaining talks by two prominent ornithologists.
All proceeds from this fun-filled weekend are used directly for SanParks Projects.

WHEN?? 15, 16 & 17 FEBRUARY 2019


COST?? Only R950 per person for a fun-filled Birding Weekend

Beverley Moll ( or phone/sms/Whatsapp 084 505 8967


Secretarybird Appeal


From: [] On Behalf Of ‘Melissa Whitecross’ [sabirdclubforum]
Sent: Wednesday, 01 August 2018 1:02 PM
Subject: [sabirdclubforum] Secretarybird Breeding Database [1 Attachment]

Hi SA Birders,

BirdLife South Africa’s Secretarybird Project would like to request your assistance in locating breeding Secretarybirds across Southern Africa. If you have any historical records of nest localities that you would be willing to share with us, or if you come across a nest while out birding please can I ask that you submit this information to Dr Melissa Whitecross (Raptors & Large Terrestrial Bird Project Manager) via email

The key information required is the date of the sighting and the GPS location of the nest to within 20m. Any additional information that can be obtained without causing unnecessary disturbance to the birds such as the number of eggs/chicks present will also be appreciated.

To stay up to date with the Secretarybird Project please like the Facebook page (

Kind regards,

Dr Melissa Whitecross        
Threatened Species Project Manager: Raptors & Large Terrestrial Birds
Terrestrial Bird Conservation Programme

Isdell House, 17 Hume Road, Dunkeld West
Private Bag X16, Pinegowrie, 2123, Gauteng, South Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 789 1122 / 0860 BIRDER
Fax: +27 (0)11 789 5188
Cell: +27 (0) 82 452 6021

Important News Concerning all of us


We have recently been notified that an application has been made to the Overstrand Municipality to build a whisky/gin distillery on the dirt road between the villages of Rooiels and Pringle Bay.  This is currently a pristine, highly sensitive ecological area, accessible only on foot (and by car on a dirt road to only a handful of small-holding owners).  It is a prime birding area, attracting many local and international birders, who come to see the Cape Rock Jumper and Ground Woodpecker, amongst others.

The application touts the merits of attracting vast numbers of tourists to the area to visit the distillery, and of course, service vehicles will be necessary for the operation of the distillery, as well as other impacts caused by an industrial activity.  Distilleries also represent very significant fire hazards.

This area is also a buffer zone for the 51st (Kogelberg) Biosphere.​

The Overstrand Municipality has invited interested parties to lodge comments concerning the application.  Comments and objections are due by 3 August 2018.

Please respond!!

TO LODGE AN OBJECTION, please e-mail Overstrand Municipality Manager via




Plastic – The Scourge of Modern Living


An Albatross killed by ingesting plastic

Most of you are aware of the environmental damage caused by plastic, especially insofar as it affects our birds.  The HBC is concerned and asks members to keep this in mind and to contribute to the overall effort to reduce plastic in our daily lives.  April has been set aside as the month to cut plastic use, but we should actually make it our mission to do this all the time.  Birdlife Overberg has some projects underway and you may wish to peruse their web sites listed below with a view to participating in the good work they are doing. line bins for the overstrand coastline overberg coastal clean-up on 14 july

The Moutonshoek community protect their land to conserve our natural heritage and the water catchment for the Verlorenvlei estuary

Moutonshoek Valley_Credit Michael Price

Moutonshoek Valley _ Credit Michael Price


Birdlife South Africa,  Media Release;  Cape Town, 23 April 2018

The Moutonshoek Protected Environment (MPE) is South Africa’s newest privately protected area, nestled in the mountains of the Moutonshoek valley, near Piketberg on South Africa’s west coast. The MPE was established through the work of BirdLife South Africa’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) Programme, with support from CapeNature. This declaration of 9 000 hectares has helped achieve a major milestone for BirdLife South Africa, bringing the total hectares that the IBA Programme has helped declare as protected areas to 100 000 hectares.
The project not only facilitated the declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment, but also assisted with the establishment of the 12 000 hectare Verlorenvlei Conservancy, which brings together landowners around the Verlorenvlei estuary committed to improving the environmental management of this critical site. The Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project also facilitated the training of more than 40 local community members working on environmental management projects in the area, thereby helping to enhance their socio-economic situation, whilst simultaneously contributing to the conservation of South Africa’s natural resources.
These positive conservation outcomes were made possible by the willing and supportive private landowners in the Moutonshoek Valley. They are the real conservation heroes, ensuring their land is protected and managed sustainably into the future.
The Moutonshoek Protected Environment comprises an area of integrated land-use, where agricultural production and biodiversity conservation coexist side by side. The site protects the Krom Antonies River and its catchment, which acts as the main tributary of the Verlorenvlei wetland system. The Verlorenvlei Estuary is listed as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and a Ramsar site. The future of the Verlorenvlei Estuary and its biodiversity is dependent on the health of this upper water catchment.
The Moutonshoek valley also provides a safe haven for a variety of species, including the Endangered and endemic Diascia caitliniae flower and the Endangered Verlorenvlei Redfin fish (Pseudobarbus verloreni), both of which occur nowhere else in the world. The site is also important for the Vulnerable Cape Leopard (Panthera pardus) and threatened birds species such as the Endangered Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus) and Black Harrier (Circus maurus). The MPE forms part of the Sandveld Corridor within the Greater Cederberg Biodiversity Corridor, a landscape initiative designed to connect protected areas and ensure sound environmental management.
All protected areas require a management plan, and the MPE’s management plan includes habitat management activities such as alien vegetation removal, fire control and appropriate burning, as well as river and wetland rehabilitation. However whilst still allowing residents to continue with their economic activities of growing food and promoting ecotourism in the region.
A “protected environment” is a category of protected area declared under the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act (NEMPAA, 2003), which, after a nature reserve, offers the next most secure form of protection. The declaration of protected areas on privately owned land is facilitated through the innovative national biodiversity stewardship programme. Biodiversity stewardship allows for the expansion of our protected area estate through ground-breaking legislation and multi-stakeholder partnerships.
These declarations require the support of CapeNature, which is facilitated through their long standing partnership with BirdLife South Africa. The Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa was another integral partner on this project.
The Verlorenvlei Protected Areas Project was funded by the WWF Nedbank Green Trust.


Verlorenvlei Estuary

Verlorenvlei Estuary


Mark Anderson, CEO for BirdLife South Africa:
“South Africa’s rich diversity of 847 bird species relies on the successful conservation of our 112 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). This is, in part dependent on achieving legal protection for priority IBAs, and can be accomplished using innovative mechanisms such as biodiversity stewardship, and through strategic partnerships between NGOs, government and landowners.”

Garth Mortimer, Senior Manager: Protected Areas Programme, CapeNature:
“CapeNature is responsible for delivering on targets as set out in an approved Western Cape Protected Area Expansion Strategy, which are both ambitious and numerous, that speaks to increasing the size of the protected area network and improving the legal status of the network. In order to unlock the potential for private land conservation in the Western Cape, CapeNature has adopted a partnership approach to augment its capacity and resources in the province towards implementing the strategy. To this effect CapeNature and BirdLife South Africa have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding.
BirdLife South Africa is currently working in partnership with CapeNature and other organisations to improve the formal protection and conservation of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas including certain Western Cape estuaries. CapeNature would like to congratulate BirdLife South Africa on the successful establishment and declaration of the Moutonshoek Protected Environment and express gratitude for its ongoing commitment to supporting the conservation of important habitats and ecosystems in the Western Cape.”

Jan Coetzee, Manager: Land Programme, WWF-SA:
“WWF-SA’s Land Programme supports current efforts in the establishment, expansion, consolidation and management of protected areas in South Africa. The programme focuses mainly on acquiring land through land purchase, facilitation of donations of land and funds, and innovative mechanisms for securing biodiversity, such as biodiversity stewardship. Also, the programme continues to support the strengthening of capacity within provincial conservation agencies and processes to develop and implement key conservation policies.
Through the support of the WWF Nedbank Green Trust, BirdLife South Africa has been able to secure the protection and sustainable management of the Moutonshoek catchment and Verlorenvlei Estuary. This project has successfully engaged landowners and other stakeholders in the area, and thus has ensured the continued support of the initiative. The Land Programme would also like to congratulate BirdLife South Africa on this important achievement in this critical biodiversity area.
The Land Programme values this partnership with BirdLife South Africa, and will continue to support this project and other landscape initiatives in biodiversity priority areas.”


For more information:
Dale Wright
IBA Conservation Implementation Manager, BirdLife South Africa
0725623946 or
Daniel Marnewick
Manager: Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme, BirdLife South Africa
011 789 1122 or
About BirdLife South Africa
 BirdLife South Africa is the local country partner of BirdLife International. BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership with more than 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide and almost 11 million supporters.
 BirdLife South Africa is the largest non-profit bird conservation organization in the country. It relies on donor funding and financial support from the public to carry out its critical conservation work.
 Vision. BirdLife South Africa wishes to see a country and region where nature and people live in greater harmony, more equitably and sustainably.
 Mission. BirdLife South Africa strives to conserve birds, their habitats and biodiversity through scientifically-based programmes, through supporting the sustainable and equitable use of natural resources and through encouraging people to enjoy and value nature.
 Birds are important environmental indicators, the proverbial “canaries in the coal mine”. By focusing on birds, and the sites and the habitats on which they depend, BirdLife South Africa’s IBA Programme aims to improve the quality of life for birds, for other wildlife, and ultimately for people.
 For more information, visit