Posted on the 17th January 2011

The Important Bird Areas (IBA) Programme is one of the largest global conservation programmes, and nearly 11 000 sites have been identified and declared IBAs. After a site has been declared an IBA, the primary activities of the programme are to establish Site Support Groups and to implement conservation action to address threats to the site and its birds. There is however also another very important aspect of the programme: creating awareness about the value of the site for birds and for bird conservation.

It is true that sites that have been declared as IBAs do not have any legal status – the same is true for Ramsar sites. However, at BirdLife South Africa, when evaluating for example a mining application that falls within the area of an IBA, we use the fact that an area is an IBA as part of our motivation why the mining application should not be allowed. So, to some extent, although not legally protected, the conservation status of these important sites is enhanced because they are IBAs. This is especially true of IBAs that are not formally protected.

BirdLife South Africa needs to do lots more to inform role players about the IBA Programme – the purpose of the IBA Programme, how it is defined and, importantly, where the IBAs are located. The role players we should target include decision-makers and officials at all levels of government, the general public, industry, birders and bird club members. The value of using the IBA Programme as a tool to conserve important habitat for birds should not be underestimated. However the potential strength of this tool will depend to a large extent if we will be able to convince the various role players of the value of the programme and to sell this idea as far as possible. I became acutely aware of this fact during a recent IBA workshop I had the privilege to attend in Rwanda. Many of the BirdLife Partners in Africa do not have the means to actively conserve the IBAs in their countries. However the fact that certain areas have been declared IBAs is used extensively and with great success as part of their advocacy work.  So how can you assist us to make people aware of the existence of the IBA Programme and where the IBAs are? The following are some suggestions:

 If your club has a newsletter, please consider publishing something about the IBA Programme in every issue of your newsletter. You could indicate where the IBAs in your area are, list the threats to each of the IBAs, or indicate each IBA’s key species. You can obtain the relevant information from this link:

 If relevant, make contact with your local municipality or conservation authority and tell them about the IBA Programme and make them aware that the area that they are operating in is an IBA.

 Maybe write to your local newspaper and let the readers know about the value of IBAs.

 I find that local radio stations are always in need of content and will most probably be more than willing to give you a time slot to inform the listeners about the IBA Programme.

It will be of great assistance to us if you can spread the message about the IBA Programme as far as possible. Importantly, by doing so, you will ultimately help to conserve the birds at these sites!

Ernst Retief, Regional Conservation Manager:

Gauteng and North West



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