Linyanti swamp/Chobe river

Country/territory: Botswana

IBA criteria met: A1, A3, A4i (1998)
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Area: 20,000 ha

BirdLife Botswana
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2020 unfavourable not assessed low
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Site description (2001 baseline)
The Chobe river rises in the Angolan highlands. It is called the Kwando river where it enters Botswana, and then becomes the Linyanti, the Itenge, and near Ngoma Gate, the Chobe river. The Chobe river lies between the Caprivi Strip to the north and Chobe National Park to the south, forming this large park’s northern boundary. The Okavango Delta is linked to the Linyanti swamp via the Magweggana or Selinda spillway. The main habitats are riparian woodland (including mopane), flood-plain grasslands, swamp vegetation and, away from the river, Baikiaea woodlands. Papyrus Cyperus and reed Phragmites occur in the Linyanti swamp, along open sections of the Chobe and in lagoons. On islands in the swamp grow palms (Hyphaene and Phoenix) and Lonchocarpus trees. The Baikiaea woodlands have a well-developed understorey of shrubs and grasses. The area on the Chobe river, from the eastern perimeter fence of the Mowana Safari Lodge eastwards to the Chobe Farms, is ecologically unique in Botswana, comprising the country’s only river-rapids as well as a small kopje and riverine woodland. This area supports a flora and avifauna not found elsewhere in the country. There is some wildlife tourism on either side of the river, and artisanal hunting and fishing occurs, as does grass-, reed- and sedge-cutting.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The Linyanti/Chobe wetlands support a wide range of birds, most of which also occur in the Okavango Delta. Grus carunculatus is regularly seen in small numbers, as too is Egretta vinaceigula. Regionally threatened species include Ciconia episcopus, Anastomus lamelligerus, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, Caprimulgus natalensis and, at Kasane rapids, a pair of Scotopelia peli. Pelecanus rufescens has bred, while 500–700 Pelecanus onocrotalus occur regularly in the non-breeding season. Regionally near-threatened species include Gorsachius leuconotus, Macheiramphus alcinus, Podica senegalensis, Microparra capensis, Vanellus albiceps, V. crassirostris, Gallinula angulata and Centropus grillii.Of note on the lower Chobe are Rynchops flavirostris (10–20 pairs breed), Alcedo semitorquata, about three pairs of Cercotrichas quadrivirgata (confined in Botswana to the extreme north of Chobe National Park and the rapids area), and 10–20 pairs of Glareola nuchalis (from September to early February, when boulders are exposed). In the swamp vegetation occur several species scarce elsewhere in Botswana (other than in the Okavango Delta), notably Acrocephalus rufescens, found on the Kwando and Savuti channel and discovered recently too on the Chobe, Amblyospiza albifrons, Ploceus xanthopterus and Euplectes axillaris. Many species characteristic of the Kalahari–Highveld biome are well represented here. The Baikiaea woodlands support an interesting range of species, including Falco dickinsoni, Coracias spatulata, Camaroptera stierlingi and the Palearctic migrant Locustella fluviatilis.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among large mammals, populations of Loxodonta africana (EN) are high, but other species on both sides of the river (and especially outside Chobe National Park) are suffering serious declines, including Tragelaphus spekei (LR/nt).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Linyanti swamp/Chobe river. Downloaded from on 01/03/2024.