Site description This site is the eastern part of a saline lake that Djibouti shares with Ethiopia and is the largest permanent inland wetland in the country. The Ethiopian part of the lake is also an IBA, the Lake Abe wetland system (ET008). The lake is fed principally by the Awash river in Ethiopia as well as by a few small, temporary wadis which drain into the lake on the Djibouti side. The size of the lake has decreased by more than two-thirds in 50 years, due (it is thought) to an increasingly arid climate and the construction of dams on the Awash river in Ethiopia, to allow irrigated cotton cultivation. The north-eastern shore of the lake is bordered by rocky hills; on the eastern and southern shores, the land that used to be submerged under the lake has become ‘sebkha’ or saltpans. Several hot freshwater springs that once fed into the lake now emerge on these saltpans. Minerals crystallizing from the spring water have formed a series of chimneys that are now exposed, creating a bizarre landscape of some tourist interest. Some low vegetation has developed around the springs and a few of these areas are fenced off by local pastoralists for use as a dry season food source for livestock. Apart from these areas, and a few stands of Tamarix trees along the temporary wadi beds, the shoreline is virtually devoid of vegetation.
Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. The site is little known. Although no thorough counts have been undertaken, an estimated 6,500 Phoenicopterus ruber and 250 P. minor were recorded in January 1999, with an estimated further 10,000 Phoenicopterus spp. at too great a distance for specific identification. From these figures a total of approximately 16,000 P. ruber and 600 P. minor can be deduced. Breeding Pelecanus onocrotalus, Vanellus spinosus and Charadrius pecuarius have been reported, while migrant waders such as Calidris minuta occur. Rhodopechys githaginea, a species of the Sahara–Sindian biome, has been recorded at the site and nearby; three other species of this biome also occur (see Table 2). The Ethiopian part of the lake qualifies as an IBA for the presence of over 20,000 waterbirds, which may also be true for the Djibouti portion.
Non-bird biodiversity: The mammal Gazella dorcas pelzelni (VU) occurs on the lake shore and freshwater fish are reportedly present in the spring-fed watercourses.