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Important Bird Areas Directory (IBA)

  IBA cover
The cover of the IBA directory features the Cape Gannet hide at Bird Island, Lamberts Bay, in the Western Cape

This project was part of the continent-wide African IBA programme coordinated by BirdLife International, a world-wide conservation NGO based in the United Kingdom. That organization's successful IBA programmes in Europe and the Middle East have proved invaluable in providing planners and decision-makers with a clear, explicit and scientifically based statement on the priority areas for the protection of birds.

Work on the southern African IBA programme began in February 1995. The Avian Demography Unit's responsibility was to undertake the selection of sites that satisfied the criteria for IBAs and to do the site descriptions for them. This was done by the ADU for South Africa and Lesotho, and in collaboration with the appropriate people and organisations for Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

The first objective was to produce an IBA site directory for the same six countries of southern Africa which had collaborated in the Southern African Bird Atlas Project. The second objective was to provide the southern African contribution to the BirdLife International's African IBA directory. The first of these objectives was met in 1998, with the publication of The Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa. The IBA directory for the entire African continent is scheduled for publication in 2001.

The collection of bird databases at the Avian Demography Unit greatly facilitated the selection of IBAs. The Atlas of Southern African Birds provided, for the first time, accurate maps of species distributions, based entirely on sight records. The databases of the Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC), the Birds in Reserves Project (BIRP) and the Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcounts (CAR) were also of value in providing information that was useful in undertaking site selection.

Both the regional and the continent-wide publications provide a synthesis of all relevant research and fieldwork, aimed specifically at promoting appropriate conservation action at the selected sites. The designation of a locality as an IBA means that it satisfies at least one of a set of strict criteria that define it as a site of importance for birds, thus providing scientific backing for the conservation argument and facilitating legal protection.

In South Africa, conservation advocacy for the Important Bird Areas, selected and described by the Avian Demography Unit, is the responsibility of BirdLife South Africa. The contact person at BirdLife South Africa is Steven Evans. Copies of the The Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa can be obtained from BirdLife South Africa and from the Avian Demography Unit.

The Avian Demography Unit was funded to undertake this project by BirdLife International and WWF-SA.