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Location Eritrea, Northern Red Sea Zone
Central coordinates 39o 40.00' East  15o 15.00' North
IBA criteria A3
Area 150,000 ha
Altitude 0 - 900m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Site description The site is located c.50 km south-east of the town of Massawa, where the Gulf of Zula makes a large indent in the coastline, running north–south and bounded to the east by the Buri peninsula. It lies just south of the Massawa coast IBA (ER005). It is not possible, with current information, to define the exact boundaries of a site. Records from the coast area around Zula and Arafaile (at the southern end of the Gulf), from Engel on the northern end of the peninsula and from the island of Dissei in the Gulf have been combined in this site account and indicate that the area around the Gulf of Zula merits designation as an IBA. Records from the Ghedem mountain range just to the north are also included (with this location mentioned by name). The proposed area is centred on the town of Zula and includes the coastline around all three sides of the Gulf of Zula (but not the Buri peninsula east of Engel), the water and islands in the Gulf and Mount Ghedem to the north and west. The coordinates used are for the town of Zula, which lies about halfway down the western coast of the Gulf of Zula. Further survey work will be required to determine the exact location and boundaries of one or more IBAs within the area of the Gulf of Zula.

The coastline is similar to that described for Massawa coast (ER005), with sand-dunes backed by Acacia spp. thorn-bush and woodland and Hyphaene sp. palms and mangroves (Avicennia sp.) fringing many of the muddy bays and inlets, and tidal lagoons. However, the underlying geology is more complex, with large bays and headlands, rocky pools, long sand- and shingle-beaches and many offshore reefs and islands. The inshore waters are shallow and some of the coral reefs may be exposed by low spring tides. There are tidal sand- and mudflats and also areas of tidal saltmarsh in the Gulf of Zula. The cliffs of the Buri peninsula to the east of the Gulf of Zula reach a height of 50 m.

An isolated range of mountains, the Ghedem range, lies in the Plain just north-west of Zula town. The mountains run parallel to the coast for a length of 24 km and reach a height of 900 m. Above 300 m the slopes are covered with Combretum sp. woodland, together with Terminalia and Anogeissus spp. and underlying scrub, similar to the woodland found on the eastern slopes of the plateau escarpment. There are many wadis on the slopes, with Zizyphus and Acacia spp. along their banks, and dense undergrowth.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Black-throated Barbet Tricholaema melanocephala resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-necked Francolin Pternistis leucoscepus resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill Tockus flavirostris resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rosy-patched Bush-shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-rumped Babbler Turdoides leucopygia resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 
Shining Sunbird Nectarinia habessinica resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Weaver Ploceus galbula resident  2000  present  A3  Least Concern 


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   5%
Rocky areas   35%
Grassland   57%
Desert   1%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
unknown -

Other biodiversity On the arid areas of the Buri peninsula itself, and south into the Danakil (see site ER014), there is a breeding population of around 100 Equus africanus somaliensis (CR), which is probably the last viable population of the subspecies (although they are said to be interbreeding with donkeys). There are also migratory Gazella dorcas (VU) and G. soemmeringi (VU) and a recent sighting was made near the Buri peninsula of a ‘beira’ dik-dik (Dorcatragus megalotis, VU), the status of which is unknown.

References Butynski (1995), FAO (1997), Ruiz (undated), Smith (1955, 1957).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Gulf of Zula. Downloaded from on 19/09/2014

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