This site is one of the best areas for bird species that are endemic or near-endemic to the Namibian escarpment. Its identification as an IBA arose directly from research coordinated by the Ministry of Environment’s Ornithology Section, aimed at identifying the most important areas for Namibia’s near-endemic birds. The Namibian escarpment forms the interface between the interior plateau and the coastal plain, varying in altitude from 400 to 2,500 m. The most important node within this broad zone is the area surrounding Hobatere tourist lodge, immediately west of the western boundary of Etosha National Park. This east–west oriented block falls in communal farmland, just to the west of commercial farmland in the Sesfontein-Kamanjab area. The IBA is part of the western catchment of the Ombonde/Hoanib river, one of the largest ephemeral rivers in north-western Namibia.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Although the area holds only one restricted-range species, Namibornis herero, it also hosts a plethora of species with global ranges slightly larger than the restricted-range species cut-off of 50,000 km². All of these species are endemic to the Namibian escarpment and Namib desert, which stretch into neighbouring Angola.Included are the 10 ‘inland’ endemics, excluding the three desert larks and Sterna balaenarum. These taxa are, in decreasing order of estimated population size within the IBA, Lanioturdus torquatus (11,900 birds), Parus c. carpi (5,800 birds) and Tockus monteiri (2,360 birds), each found in dry woodland where large trees are common. The shrike is the commonest of this trio, while the main centre of distribution for the hornbill and tit occurs somewhat east (higher rainfall) of this IBA. Namibornis herero and Achaetops pycnopygius, common within the IBA, occur predominantly on rocky hillsides. Populations for both species in Namibia are estimated at about 100,000 birds, and more than 1% of Namibornis herero occur in this IBA. Eupodotis rueppellii (580 birds) is found on open plains mainly in the western portion of the IBA.The river valleys running through this area enhance diversity, as several endemics exhibit particularly high abundances in riverine woodland, and collect there in winter periods. Turdoides gymnogenys (335 birds) is a bird of mopane woodland, which favours riverbeds, where it occurs in groups averaging six birds. Poicephalus rueppellii (450 birds) occur at good densities in the river valleys, but this bird is nowhere common, with a Namibian population estimate of only 29,000 birds. One of the rarest of the endemics is Francolinus hartlaubi (450 birds), a bird found on inselbergs and koppies throughout this region. The rarest and most enigmatic endemic taxon is Phoeniculus d. damarensis (35–70 birds), a species difficult to distinguish from the morphologically similar P. purpureus, with which it hybridizes. It is only found close to large rivers with large trees, and the Namibian population is predicted to be a mere 1,800 birds.A total of 215 species occur in this region, about half the number recorded in the most species-rich areas of north-eastern Namibia.
Non-bird biodiversity: Threatened mammals include Diceros bicornis (CR), Loxodonta africana (EN) and Panthera leo (VU), the latter two being common in this region and possibly coming into conflict with commercial farmers. The area is extremely rich in endemic species of frog, reptile, mammal and plant.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The main concern is that the rich Namibian escarpment vein of bird, mammal, frog, reptile and plant endemism falls squarely between Namibia’s main protected areas—the Etosha National Park (NA004) in the east and the Skeleton Coast Park in the west. It has been suggested that a park joining the two would be ideally situated to protect many of these endemic taxa, as well as to act as a corridor for large mammals that regularly move between Etosha and the Skeleton Coast Park. Conservancies at Sesfontein and Bergsig will improve the situation.Farming practices are of relatively low intensity, but on communal lands overstocking may occur where goats congregate around waterholes. The dry river-courses to the coast are inhabited by pastoralists who regularly shoot Panthera leo (and other large mammals) that threaten their livestock. A protected area may prevent this, and effectively help fill the Skeleton Coast Park with mammals that once naturally occurred there. Among the bird endemics, only Poicephalus rueppellii is under direct threat, since it is illegally trapped for the wild bird trade. Hundreds of birds are taken from the population each year, but recent breakthroughs in catching bird-trappers may help reduce this problem.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Hobatere. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 03/12/2022.