Email: CS/ADU no: Password:  
  Forgot/Reset password

About us

The Animal Demography Unit (ADU) launched the Coordinated Waterbird Counts (CWAC) project in 1992 as part South Africa’s commitment to International waterbird conservation. This is being done by means of a programme of regular mid-summer and mid-winter censuses at a large number of South African wetlands. Regular six-monthly counts are regarded as a minimum standard; however, we do encourage counters to survey their wetlands on a more regular basis as this provides more accurate data.  All the counts are conducted by volunteers; people and organisations with a passion for waterbird conservation. It is one of the largest and most successful citizen science programmes in Africa, providing much needed data for waterbird conservation around the world. Currently the project regularly monitors over 400 wetlands around the country, and furthermore curates waterbird data for over 600 sites. The project’s Goal & Objectives are outlined below:

To act as an effective long-term waterbird monitoring tool, benefiting conservation efforts worldwide.

  • Ensure effective project management through working closely with a host of national and international stakeholders; steadily updating and integrating this network of people;
  • Coordinate, prioritise and expand waterbird surveys on a national scale with the emphasis on long-term monitoring;
  • Ensure effective data management throughout the project;
  • Manage, maintain and expand the project database;
  • Undertake effective IT development within the project, including the upkeep and expansion of the project website;
  • Disseminate data and results through the project website, reports, scientific papers, popular articles, direct liaison with stakeholders, or any other useful means;
  • Promote and facilitate the use of census data specifically for policy, planning and research purposes;
  • Raise awareness and promote the project through the website, popular articles, newsletters, interviews, talks, or any other appropriate means;
  • Submit census data towards the African Waterbird Census Programme in part fulfilment of South Africa’s contribution to international agreements such as Ramsar, Bonn and AEWA.

There are many reasons for collecting waterbird data from around the country. A comparison of counts from different wetlands gives indications of seasonal movements and the relative importance of sites for the conservation of different species. Long-term monitoring of population numbers on a site basis allows for the development of annual population indices to trace the fluctuations of populations. A few more reasons are listed below:

  • better understand how waterbirds use wetlands;
  • identify important wetlands for waterbird conservation;
  • provide information support for management policies;
  • assist in monitoring the health of wetlands;
  • raise awareness of importance of wetlands as biodiversity hotspots;
  • serve as an early warning system for wetland degradation;
  • serve as an early warning system for waterbird population decline.

The development of this website in 2008 marks a new era in waterbird conservation in South Africa since the availability of data for much-needed conservation work is now a reality. The Animal Demography Unit in conjunction with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) encourages you to use this site as a source of information. Furthermore, this site aims to serve as a wetland assessment tool. If you suspect problems around your wetland, raise the issue with the relevant authorities; take action. We hope that we will be able to continually expand and upgrade this information portal for you. We also encourage you to have a look at the TOTAL CWAC Report published in 1999. The report provides a useful summary of all the data collected between 1992 and 1997. A summary of the main findings contained in this report have also been published in Bird Numbers. The report can be ordered from Horizon Book Services, or directly from the ADU.

We encourage the use of the CWAC data for conservation, education, and recreational purposes. This information may not be incorporated into other websites, or used for explicit commercial gain. Please contact the project coordinator for further details. Effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the data; however, the ADU cannot guarantee that all data are correct. If you are aware of any errors or omissions in the data, please contact the project coordinator.

We are proud of the achievements the CWAC project has made since 1991. We are thankful to all the people that contribute their time and money towards this worthwhile cause. This project is a success because of you! If you are not participating yet, please consider lending your support. Your participation will make a real contribution towards waterbird conservation, not only in South Africa, but truly on a global scale. Please feel free to have a look through the CWAC information sheets which contain all the relevant information.

Since January 2018 CWAC is under the administration of the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. This has been done to ensure the continuity of this project beyond the life-span of the ADU, which will be closing down at the end of 2020.

CWAC contact information.


FITZ logo Ramsar Wetlands International

Monday 28 November 2022 09:57
FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
Department of Biological Sciences - University of Cape Town

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License