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Location Djibouti, Dikhil
Central coordinates 41o 50.00' East  11o 10.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 11,100 ha
Altitude 222 - 400m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Djibouti Nature (Affiliate)

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.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1999  16,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  1999  600 individuals  poor  A1  Near Threatened 
Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Greater Hoopoe-lark Alaemon alaudipes resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Blackstart Cercomela melanura resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 high not assessed negligible

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Natural system modifications dams & water management/use - abstraction of surface water (agricultural use) happening now majority/most of area/population (50-90%) moderate to rapid deterioration high

Little/none of site covered (<10%)  No management planning has taken place  Very little or no conservation action taking place  negligible 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   2%
Wetlands (inland)   31%
Rocky areas   44%
Grassland   21%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
tourism/recreation -

References Comité National Pour l’Environnement (1991), Welch and Welch (1992), Magin (1999b).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lac Abhé. Downloaded from on 29/11/2015

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