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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.

The second Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) has collected nearly 20 million bird sighting records over the last 13 years. The data are provided 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.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had a dramatic effect on all citizen science projects. The strict lockdowns and other travel restrictions had a huge effect on the ability of citizen scientists to collect data. Although the restrictions were lifted to some extent during the second half of the year, the net effect of the pandemic was a decrease in records for 2020 compared to 2019. Despite these challenges, 986 Citizen Scientists sampled 4428 pentads during 2020, collecting 2.16 million records in the SABAP2 region.

Another, more serious impact of the pandemic was the loss of funding for core administrative support for SABAP from SANBI, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, due to dramatic cuts in their budget from the South African government. Fortunately, a funding appeal lead by BirdLife South Africa saw much of the funding gap filled, and we joined with ABAP (African Bird Atlas Project) partners in West and East Africa to develop a grant application to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). If successful, this grant will cover most of the running costs of SABAP2 for the next two years.

New processing software for ABAP became operational in early 2020, and there were numerous tweaks to the system throughout the year to improve its efficiency. The new system allows changes to be made with minimal disruptions to the processing of incoming data, and has streamlined species vetting. Vincent Parker in particular has made a major contribution by correcting anomalies created by species splits.

BirdLife South Africa’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. A list of the 7 papers published in 2020 that utilised SABAP2 data is available at http://sabap2.birdmap.africa/media/bibliography#pgcontent.

Key supporters

We would like to acknowledge and thank the following key supporters for their funding contributions during 2020: The Rupert Foundation, The Isdell Family Foundation, Marc Solomon, Chris Brown (Namibia Chamber of Environment/Namibia Bird Club), Cape Bird Club, BirdLife South Africa, Eckhart Buchmann, Lowveld Bird Club, Wits Bird Club, Alan Whyte, BirdLife Eastern Cape, BirdLife Inkwazi, Laurel Bloch, Lawson’s Tours, as well as the many other persons and organisations that donated much needed funding to the project.

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