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Location Ethiopia, Gambella
Central coordinates 34o 0.00' East  7o 52.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A3
Area 506,100 ha
Altitude 500 m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description Gambella National Park is in the centre of Gambella Region. It lies between the Baro and Gilo rivers, the Baro river forming the northern boundary, c.15 km south of Gambella town. The centre of the park, Abobo, is 82 km south of Gambella town. The park is the largest protected area in Ethiopia. The general topography is flat with some areas of higher ground where deciduous woodland and savanna occur. The higher areas are often rocky with large termite mounds. The park also supports extensive areas of wet grassland and swamps with grasses growing over 3 m tall. Other important habitats include the rivers, their banks and the oxbow lakes. Traditionally, the Nilotic peoples who live in the area graze their animals throughout the park, grow a few crops on the riverbanks and hunt for game-meat. Presently many refugees from southern Sudan have moved into the park, and some of the settlements set up for the highland people brought to the Gambella plains after the 1984–1985 drought and famine have remained populated.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. More than 230 species have been recorded in the park. Balaeniceps rex was recorded in the early 1960s, 20 km west of Gambella. There are recent anecdotal reports of the species breeding in the Abobo area, suggesting that it may be present seasonally in swamps within the park. Acrocephalus griseldis was recorded regularly between 1969 and 1976, but its current status is unknown. Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome species include: Merops bulocki, Eremomela pusilla, Cisticola ruficeps, C. troglodytes, Plocepasser superciliosus, Lagonosticta larvata and Vidua interjecta, the last-named being known in Ethiopia only from around Gambella. Three Afrotropical Highlands and four Somali–Masai biome species have been recorded. Other species include Platalea leucorodia (rarely recorded from the south and west of Ethiopia), Kaupifalco monogrammicus (little-known in Ethiopia), Campethera cailliautii and Acrocephalus melanopogon. The only Ethiopian record of Vanellus crassirostris is from Gambella.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Shoebill Balaeniceps rex resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bulocki resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-pate Cisticola Cisticola ruficeps resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Foxy Cisticola Cisticola troglodytes resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Basra Reed-warbler Acrocephalus griseldis passage  present  A1  Endangered 
Senegal Eremomela Eremomela pusilla resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Gambaga Flycatcher Muscicapa gambagae breeding  1996  unknown  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser superciliosus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bush Petronia Petronia dentata resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-winged Pytilia Pytilia phoenicoptera resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-throated Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Long-tailed Paradise-whydah Vidua interjecta resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Gambella National Park 506,100 is identical to site 506,100  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   17%
Shrubland   66%
Forest   15%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
forestry -
hunting -
nature conservation and research -

References Duckworth (1974a, b), Hillman (1993), Urban (1967).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Gambella National Park. Downloaded from on 27/10/2016

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