Robben Island

Country/territory: South Africa

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i, A4ii, A4iii (1998)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 574 ha

Protection status:

BirdLife South Africa
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 high very unfavourable low
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here

Site description
Robben Island, South Africa’s largest coastal island (5 × 2 km), lies 11 km from Table Bay harbour in Cape Town and 7 km from Bloubergstrand (its closest point to the mainland). The island was one of the first areas in South Africa to be colonized by European settlers, and has been extensively altered through a long history of human inhabitation, exploitation and use. The terrestrial vegetation is dominated by non-native Acacia and Myoporum and plantations of Pinus and Eucalyptus, dense stands of which cover large tracts inland.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. Spheniscus demersus recolonized Robben Island in 1983 after an absence of about 180 years. Numbers of penguins have increased from nine pairs in 1983 to 2,000 pairs in 1992 and to over 4,000 pairs in 1996. It is thought that birds may be relocating here from Dyer Island (IBA ZA099), where the population has decreased markedly since the mid-1980s. The breeding area was only a few square metres in 1983, but had extended to over 55 ha by 1996. The main nesting areas are under the shade of trees or bushes along the north-east sector of the island. Recently, one pair of penguins was found breeding in the south. The island also holds the largest numbers of breeding Phalacrocorax neglectus in the Western Cape and significant populations of P. coronatus, Haematopus moquini, Larus hartlaubii and Sterna bergii.

Non-bird biodiversity: Among reptiles, Bradypodion pumilum (CR) and the west-coast endemic Scelotes gronovii (LR/nt) occur on the island.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Robben Island. Downloaded from on 23/10/2019.