SAFRING, the South African Bird Ringing Unit, administers bird ringing within southern Africa, and throughout most of the rest of Africa, supplying rings and services to volunteer and professional bird ringers. SAFRING curates all the ringing records and maintains close links with ringing schemes. It performs a critical function for bird research in the region.

SAFRING has received primary ringing data from 185 bird ringers during 2023, but ringers continue to submit data for 2023 and this number is likely to increase slightly. A total of 13 new A-licence SAFRING ringers were registered in the calendar year. Thus far for 2023, primary ringing data were received from 13 African countries, with resighting or recapture data of ringed birds from another 18 countries, mostly in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

The SAFRING Steering Committee met during the year to help with guiding decision-making and prioritizing the work of SAFRING. The Steering Committee is made up of bird ringers linked to SAFRING who represent bird clubs, wildlife NGOs, provincial conservation departments, and ringers with special interests, such as bird rehabilitation. 

Social media
In September 2023, we created a private Facebook group at the recommendation of the SAFRING Steering Committee. This group, reserved exclusively for registered SAFRING ringers, was devised as a “a safe place for SAFRING registered ringers to share experiences and discuss methods, techniques, or other issues privately”. Anyone requesting access is required to submit their ringer number. By the end of 2023, 72 ringers had joined.

The public Facebook group continues to be both a valuable source of information and an effective platform from which to share information about resightings of live and recoveries of dead ringed birds. A minor change effected this year is that all posts are now moderated. The decision to add a step to publishing of posts was made in response to a spate of spam posted to the group as well as some comments that breached the group rules.

During 2023, the public Facebook grew from 1 315 to 1 455 members and 86 posts were published by members of the public, SAFRING ringers, and the group administrators. Comments and reactions to these posts amounted to 245 and 1 260 respectively.

There were many resighting posts from members of the public. These are particularly rewarding when they are sent by someone who, prior to making contact with us, was unaware of bird ringing and its value. A noteworthy sighting in 2023 was of a Black-browed Albatross that was spotted at sea approximately 45km off Cape Point. This bird had originally been ringed as a nestling by the British Trust for Ornithology on 30th December, 2006 at Bird Island, South Georgia and had travelled 4 838km in the last 16 years, 5 months and 7 days (5 997 days) since last being seen. .

SAFRING team 2023
A/Prof. Robert Thomson (Co-ordinator, FIAO, UCT)
Janine Dunlop (Niven Librarian, FIAO, UCT)
Kim Kelly Hunt (Research and Data Manager)
Michael Brooks (FIAO, UCT, SAFRING website maintenance)

SAFRING Steering Committee members:
Zephne Bernitz; Mark Brown (UKZN); Ursula Bryson (FIAO RA); Tammy Caine (FreeMe Wildlife); Brent Coverdale (KZN Wildlife); Johan de Jager (BirdLife North Gauteng); Chris du Plooy (BirdLife North Gauteng); Peter Hamming (Southern African Wildlife College); Alan Lee (BirdLife SA); Katta Ludynia (SANCCOB); Craig Nattrass (Vulpro; Wits Bird Club); Gareth Tate (EWT).