|Avian Demography Unit
Department of Statistical Sciences
University of Cape Town
South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING) administers bird ringing in
southern Africa, supplying rings, ringing equipment and services to
volunteer and professional ringers in South Africa and neighbouring
countries. All ringing records are curated by SAFRING, which is an
essential arm of the Avian Demography Unit. Contact is maintained by the
SAFRING Project Coordinator with all ringers (banders in North American
or Australian terminology).
The Bird Ringing Scheme in South Africa was initiated in 1948, so 1998 saw the 50th anniversary of the scheme. During this period over 1.7 million birds of 852 species were ringed. There have been a total of 16 800 ring recoveries since the inception of the scheme. This gives an overall recovery rate for rings in southern Africa of marginally less than 1%, averaged across all species. This probability varies enormously across species.
The traditional objective of SAFRING is to establish a database of recoveries of southern African birds that can be used to establish information about movement and survival. Every bird ringed, no matter what species or where it was ringed has the potential to contribute to the SAFRING recovery database. Since 1982, this database has been supplemented by a retrap database, supplied by ringers on a voluntary basis. This contains ringing and latest retrap details of birds recaptured at least 12 months after being ringed.
The database as a whole is a resource which may be used by researchers, conservation biologists and managers, and primarily provides answers to questions related to movement and survival. Research into bird populations of importance to fisheries, agriculture, conservation and water management authorities involves bird ringing. Ringing provides a cost- effective tool for monitoring our environment and commonly draws attention to pollution, poisoning, powerline incidents, longline fishing fatalities and other hazards.
There are currently 130 active ringers operating in South Africa and neighbouring countries such as Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. About 70 000 birds are ringed annually. Ringers, both amateur and professional, have to pay for all rings used. An exception are those rings used on Redbilled Quelea, which are paid for by the Department of Agriculture. Recoveries of ringed quelea provide data on movements and mortality and contribute to a better understanding of the population dynamics of this explosive species.