Mabamba Bay

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Mabamba is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus Cyperus papyrus towards the main body of Lake Victoria. Miscanthus and Cyperus species dominate, but there is a narrow open water channel and a small patch of water-lilies Nymphaea. There are also areas of sedge Cladium, and sometimes drifting papyrus swamp islands. The Bay forms part of Waiya Bay, south-west of Nakiwogo Bay; these are all to the west of Entebbe International Airport. This IBA is one of the best marshy areas along the northern shores of Lake Victoria.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. There has been no detailed inventory of the bay and its associated swamps, but one has now begun. However, a recent study of waterbirds of Lake Victoria revealed the presence of several species of conservation interest. This is the closest place to Kampala where Balaeniceps rex are regularly seen. The surrounding communities have reported breeding, and the young are sometimes collected by local people to be raised and eventually sold. This has not been very successful because of the specialized feeding habits of the birds, and as they grow they become expensive to feed. Balaeniceps rex feeds primarily on lungfish Protopterus aethiopicus, which is also prized by the local community. Balaeniceps rex is regularly recorded in pairs and threes in the marsh at Nakiwogo, c.2 km north-east of Mabamba Bay.Recent visits also confirmed the presence of flocks of other species, especially migrants such as Sterna nilotica, Chlidonias leucopterus and Chlidonias hybridus and residents such as Larus cirrocephalus. Other notable species found in the marsh include good numbers of Ardea goliath, Plectropterus gambensis and Nettapus auritus, and a number of migratory waders. The site may be important for Hirundo atrocaerulea, and there are old records of the globally near-threatened Circus macrourus.

Non-bird biodiversity: Like many papyrus swamps adjacent to Lake Victoria, Mabamba contains the ungulate Tragelaphus spekii (LR/nt) which is commonly hunted by local people. More information on other fauna will become available after detailed studies of the area.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The major conservation problem affecting sites such as Mabamba and Lutembe is the proliferation of the invasive water-hyacinth Eichhornia, although this has declined in much of the Lake Victoria area since 1998. Few detailed studies have been carried out to establish how the weed affects wetlands such as these, but studies elsewhere on Lake Victoria show that certain aquatic plants and large invertebrates may be adversely affected. This may, in turn, have an impact on birds. In the longer term, the proliferation of flower farms along the shores of the lake may also have an impact because they make intensive use of agrochemicals. The dry-season incursion into the swamp by fishermen, some of whom build huts in the swamp and stay there, even keeping animals such as pigs Sus scrofa in the interior of the swamp, needs to be regulated, as does the hunting of Tragelaphus spekei. NatureUganda is currently talking to Mpigi District Administration about the possibility of a Wetland Reserve, as well as ecotourism in Mabamba, so as to prepare a funding proposal.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mabamba Bay. Downloaded from on 16/10/2021.