Even though it has an urban setting, the Swartkops Estuary with its adjacent salt pans, is one of the most important wetlands areas in South Africa. It is seen as an Important Bird Area playing host to over 10 000 water birds in summer and is one of the best places in the country to see the less common estuarine waders and terns. All in all its one of the premier birding venues in Port Elizabeth with about 200 species found there regularly. Big parts of the estuary and surroundings, specifically the dense coastal thicket vegetation on the northern escarpment, are protected by the Zwartkops and Aloe Nature Reserves. Unfortunately the estuary are constantly under threat, specifically from pollution carried in storm-water drains, mismanaged sewerage and industrial waste but at the forefront of the battle against this are the groups such as the Zwartkops Trust.