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Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2)

The Second Southern African Bird Atlas Project started in mid-2007 and has collected over 18 million bird sighting records over the last 12 years. The data are collected primarily by citizen scientists and form the largest single dataset for birds in Africa. SABAP2 falls under the umbrella protocol of the wider BirdMap project, which is active in numerous countries in Africa, providing a single robust protocol and dataset for use in research across the continent.

Initially housed in the Animal Demography Unit, in January 2018 SABAP2 was moved, along with the Coordinated Waterbird Counts project (CWAC), the Coordinated Avifaunal Roadcount (CAR), SAFRING and the Virtual Museums, to fall under the Fitztitute. SABAP2 is managed by a committee chaired by Prof. Peter Ryan, with members from the University of Cape Town (Fitz and Centre for Statistics in Ecology, the Environment and Conservation (SEEC)), South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), BirdLife SA, BirdLasser and citizen scientists. Day-to-day management of the project is led by Ernst Retief (BirdLife SA), with technical support from Michael Brooks and communications/outreach by Sanjo Rose. All SABAP2 data are uploaded to GBIF weekly. To date, SABAP2 data have been downloaded 7 922 times.

2019 saw the launch of the new SABAP2 website, designed to streamline data maintenance, and to allow greater data access by end-users and observers. We also started a much needed update to the software that processes the incoming data and have re-designed the feedback mechanisms to the observers. This is due for launch early in 2020.

A total of 3.23 million records were added to the dataset across all protocols. This was collected by 989 observers, covering 5 476 pentads in the SABAP2 extended region (South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique). This represents an increase of approximately 15% to the complete dataset.

There are six regional subprojects in South Africa aimed at reaching specific atlas targets. The sub-projects play an important role in motivating atlasers by providing attainable local goals. The current subprojects are in the Western Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, and the Eastern Cape. Each sub-project has a local coordinator who manages the atlasing effort and performs the data checks.

There were three formal atlas bashes in 2019. These bashes are typically a few days in duration and aim to increase data coverage in poorly atlased regions or to contribute to the atlas subprojects. The 2019 bashes focused on improving coverage around Atherstone Nature Reserve in Limpopo (50 pentads), Boegoeberg Dam in the Northern Cape (14 remote pentads) and Harrismith in the Free State (26 pentads). Bashes also help to build and maintain connections between atlasers.

BirdLife SA’s bi-monthly magazine, African Birdlife, has a page dedicated to SABAP in each issue, which highlights project news, participant interviews and data use. Dr Chevonne Reynolds assists the management team in sourcing and editing stories. New servers were procured and installed. These were funded by generous donations from BirdLifeSA and the Western Cape Birding Forum. We also thank Prof. Les Underhill and the JRS for funding two additional servers to further upgrade our capacity into the future.

2019 publications utilising SABAP2 data A list of the 12 papers published in 2019 that utilised SABAP2 data is available at

SABAP2 team (Admin)

Ernst Retief (Project Coordinator BirdLife SA)
Sanjo Rose (Project Communications, FIAO)
Michael Brooks (Information Systems Specialist, FIAO)

SABAP2 team (Regional Atlas Committees)

Carl Beel, Eastern Zambia
Chris Brewster, Botswana
Jeff Curnick, Eastern Cape
Andrew de Blocq, Western Cape
Dawie de Swardt, Free State
Ian Gordon, KwaZulu-Natal
Joe Grosel, Limpopo
Doug Harebottle, Northern Cape
Andrew Hester, Western Zambia
Holger Kolberg, Namibia
Peter Lawson, Mpumalanga
Etienne Marais, Mozambique
André Marx, Gauteng & Northwest
Duncan McKenzie, Mpumalanga
Bob Medland, Malawi
Ara Monadjem, Eswatini
Vincent Parker, Northern Cape
Ian Riddell, Zimbabwe
Colin Summersgill, KZN
Dave Winter, Western Cape