Musambwa islands

Site description (2001 baseline):

Site location and context
These three rocky islets are about 3 km offshore in Sango Bay. The largest covers about 5 ha, and the next about 3 ha (these are locally known as Ennene (large) and Entono (small) respectively), whilst the smallest is just a rocky outcrop jutting out of the lake. The two larger ones are sparsely vegetated with shrubs and short, weather-beaten trees, especially of Ficus species. The shoreline has no fringing swamp or sandy beaches. The larger island is used periodically by fishermen catching Nile perch Lates niloticus (Mputa) and Rastrineobola argentea (Mukene). A group of fishermen have settled on the island.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. As yet, there is no species list for the islands, whose significance is as a breeding and roosting site. The full importance of the islands, especially for Larus cirrocephalus was not appreciated until recently. There are no other breeding colonies of Egretta garzetta known in Uganda, which makes this an important site. Phalacrocorax carbo breeds on both islands in Ficus trees, and 2,000 non-breeding birds were recorded in February and October 1995. Large numbers of Phalacrocorax africanus also roost on the islands, with an estimate of 3,000–5,000 in July 1997.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
In 1995, there were only three houses on the islands, but by 1997 there were seven, including a shop. Problems associated with an increasing human population, such as disturbance, consumptive utilization and competition for space, may become more acute with time. The number of adult Ficus trees is decreasing.Local people in the Sango Bay area collect and eat eggs of nesting Larus cirrocephalus. Although some eggs are laid in crevices too deep for people to extract them, the disturbance leads to desertion. Information about breeding periods is passed on by the resident fishermen. Recent observations indicate that the egg-collection may not be sustainable.Fishermen of two kinds use the islands. Those who fish the Nile Perch Lates niloticus and set their nets far from the shore, and only use the islands for short periods; and those who fish the sardine-sized Mukene R. argentea. The latter set their nets close to the islands, reside on the islands and have cleared about 200 m² for sun-drying the fish. In addition to losing nesting-space, birds will become susceptible to injury from fishermen preventing them from eating the fish on the ground. The UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme recently approved an award of $50,000 to NatureUganda for a two-year project with local communities to conserve the islands.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2024) Important Bird Area factsheet: Musambwa islands. Downloaded from on 21/02/2024.