A feasibility study conducted by BirdLife South Africa for the development of a Greater Limpopo Birding Route has just been completed, and things are looking positive for the province to become an internationally recognised birding paradise with the help of a formal birding route. The study found that birding-based tourism already contributes about R40 million to the local economy each year. If a formal route is established, up to 30 people from previously disadvantaged communities could become self-sustaining bird guides.
A Greater Limpopo Birding Route would provide a platform to market the area to birding tourists, who are the single largest group of eco-tourists globally and are considered to be one of the richest niche market groups. The route would also develop birding infrastructure and support local people who could be trained as bird guides by the route.
Bird guides trained in similar schemes have been shown to play an important role in conserving biodiversity in communities around the country. In Limpopo there are over 610 bird species, including some birding specials such as the Taita falcon, one of the rarest birds of prey on the planet, and the elusive Pels fishing owl.
There are also more than 50 Red Data species, occurring in a wide range of habitats from mistbelt forests on the Drakensberg escarpment to lowveld bushveld. The feasibility study was commissioned by Rio Tinto and the Palaborwa Foundation, and was conducted by Duncan Pritchard who was involved in the creation of the internationally renowned Zululand Birding Route.