Habitat change, mainly through the actions of humans, poses a threat to great white (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and pink-backed (P. rufescens) pelicans in northeastern KwaZulu-Natal, the southernmost distributions of these species on Africa's eastern seaboard. This study assessed the relative importance and state of the potential pelican habitat in the northeastern KwaZulu-Natal region, focusing particularly on Lake St Lucia and the Phongolo River floodplain. Great white pelicans breed on islands in Lake St Lucia. Should these islands be lost through falling water levels or their becoming joined to mainland by deposits of silt, or by flooding, no suitable habitat for their breeding will remain in the region. By contrast, the pink-backed pelican nests in trees, and there appears to be plentiful alternative habitat. Lake St Lucia and, to a lesser extent, the Phongolo River floodplain, are important foraging areas for both pelican species. The hydrology of both these systems has been affected by human activities.
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Vol. 43 • No. 1