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Priorities for conservation of avifauna in Swaziland

by Vincent Parker

The grassland biome is foremost among the biomes in southern Africa which are poorly represented within existing protected areas (Harrison et al.1997 vol. 1 pg. c). The Malolotja Nature Reserve in Swaziland is one of the very few protected areas where a substantial area of the grassland biome is conserved. Among the bird species that are protected within the reserve are the globally threatened (category A1 (Collar et al. 1994)) Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea, Blue Crane Grus paradisea, Ground woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceous, Buffstreaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata and Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus.

Other species which are restricted to the grassland biome and are regarded as threatened within southern Africa and which occcur here include the Stanley's Bustard Neotis denhami, Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis and Broadtailed Warbler Schoenicola brevirostris. In indigenous forests in the highlands of Swaziland, the following species classified as globally threatened (Collar et al.1994) occur: Brown Robin Erythropygia signata, Forest Canary Serinus scotops, Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix and Chorister Robin Cossypha dichroa. Two globally threatened species found in bushveld in the lowlands are Rudd's Apalis Apalis ruddi and Pinkthroated Twinspot Hypargos margaritatus. The globally threatened (category A1) Cape Griffon Gyps coprotheres breeds on cliffs across the border in Mozambique, but forages regularly within the lowlands of Swaziland.

In addition, species which are regarded as threatened within southern Africa and occur in the lowlands include Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, Lappetfaced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus, Whiteheaed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis and Finfoot Podica senegalensis. The Malolotja Nature Reserve in the highlands and the Mlawula/ Hlane complex in the lowlands have been included in the Important Bird Areas Inventory for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Barnes In Press).

In addition to these protected areas, the abovementioned globally and locally threatened species still occur at a number of other sites throughout the country (Parker 1994). As a consequence of its exceptionally varied topography and habitat types, Swaziland contains a greater diversity of bird species in a smaller area than the Kruger National Park, which is world renowned as a birding locality (Parker 1994). This means that the potential for attracting large numbers of visitors and thereby generating funds for the continued conservation of biodiversity exists, if the appropriate infrastructure were to be developed.


Barnes, K. In Press. Important Bird Areas Inventory for South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Birdlife International.

Collar, N.J., Crosby, M.J. & Stattersfield, A.J. 1994. Birds to watch 2. The World List of Threatened Birds. Birdlife International, Cambridge.

Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (eds.) 1997. The atlas of southern African Birds. Birdlife South Africa, Johannesburg.

Parker, V. 1994. The Swaziland Bird Atlas 1985-1991. Webster's, Mbabane.

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