South Africa

2798 km
1284030 km2

The neritic waters surrounding the islands off the coast of South Africa support a range of near endemic seabirds species: the African Penguin (EN), Cape Gannet (LC), Cape Cormorant (LC), Bank Cormorant (EN), Crowned Cormorant (NT), Hartlaub's Gull (LC) and Damara Tern (NT). These waters are also important for non-endemic coastal species such as the Tristan Albatross (CR), Northern Royal Albatross (EN), Sooty Albatross (EN), Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross, Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Black-browed Albatross (EN), Barau's Petrel (EN), Southern Royal Albatross (VU), Wandering Albatross (VU), Grey-headed Albatross (VU), White-chinned Petrel (VU), Spectacled Petrel (VU), Shy Albatross (NT), and Grey Petrel (NT). The temperate waters around the South African continental shelf also support a number of seabirds, dominated by procellariiform species. The greatest threat to seabirds is the risk of bycatch which originates from a lack of capacity to enforce permit conditions at sea, a problem which is now being addressed. Regional priorities for the designation of marine IBAs in the Republic of South Africs include: Alexandria coastal belt, Algoa Bay Island Nature Reserve, Bird Island, Boulders Bay, Dassen Island, Dyer Island Nature Reserve, False Bay Park (proposed) Heuningnes river and estuary system, Lake St Lucia and Mkuze swamps, Lower Berg river wetlands, Orange river mouth wetlands, Rietvlei Wetland Reserve, Robben Island National Historical Monument, Swartkops estuary, Redhouse and Chatty saltpans, West Coast National Park and Saldanha Bay islands
Key threats to seabirds in the Republic of South Africa include:
o Oil pollution
o Overfishing and bycatch
o Conversion of coastal habitats for uses such as: agriculture, aquaculture, port/harbour expansion and urban development
o Invasive species

National priorities
o Develop conservation policies for protection of the high seas beyond the EEZ
o Better cooperation with other West Indian Ocean countries on biosecurity to tackle the threat of invasive species
o Develop, alongside neighbouring countries, a set of guidelines for the environmental impact assessment for oil and gas exploration and other developments in the coastal and marine environment
o Better enforce laws and develop procedures to deal with oil pollution from shipping
o Move towards muti-species management and place a stronger focus on ecosystem based approaches to fishing management as well as strengthening the Compliance, Monitoring and Surveillance systems
o Develop research into the economic value of marine ecosystem services in the West Indian Ocean.

Government's support/relevant policy
In South Africa the area 1km inland form the HWM outwards is defined as a coastal zone. The Republic of South Africa is a Contracting Party of the Nairobi Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region which covers the coastal environment and EEZ of the Republic of South Africs. As part of the Convention the Republic of South Africa agreed to the Protocol Concerning Protected Areas and Wild Fauna and Flora in the Eastern African Region. The Protocol lists species which are protected under the convention and urges the Republic of South Africa and other Contracting Parties to Please see policy tab for list of agreements that this country is party to.

Petrels and shearwaters

Gulls and terns
Ducks, geese and swans

IUCN Red List Status

21 (5th)
25% (18th)

The numbers in brackets refer to the country's rank when compared to other countries and territories globally.

Fishpool, L.D.C. & Evans, M.I. (eds). 2001. Important Bird Areas in Africa and related islands: priority sites for conservation. Pisces Publications and Birdlife International (Birdlife Conservation Series 11). Newbury and Cambridge. 1144pp

South Africa at a glance




1,219,090 km2

BirdLife Partner

BirdLife South Africa


Total number of birds 761
Globally threatened birds 54
Country endemics 18

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas

Number of IBAs 99
Total IBA area 10,040,791 ha

Endemic Bird Areas

Number of EBAs 6

Recommended Citation
BirdLife International (2020) Country profile: South Africa. Available from Checked: 2020-06-04