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Location Ethiopia, Oromiya
Central coordinates 38o 30.96' East  7o 32.46' North
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i, A4iii
Area 88,700 ha
Altitude 1,500 - 1,700m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description The National Park is a combination of Lakes Abijatta and Shalla, and the land between and around them, in East Shewa Zone. The park is 56 km south-west of Lake Ziway and to the west of the main Mojo–Moyale road. Both lakes are without outlets, and the water is alkaline. Lake Abijatta is very shallow (up to 14 m), while Lake Shalla, in the crater of an extinct volcano, is very deep (up to 266 m). Three rivers, the Gogessa, Bulbula and Hora Kelo, feed Lake Abijatta. The lake had an area of 19,600 ha, a shoreline of 60 km and was full of fish, but by 1995, it had shrunk dramatically and no fish-eating birds were seen. Water is being removed from the lake to feed a soda-ash extraction plant, and from the Bulbula river for irrigation. Fish and aquatic plants now regularly occur only around the mouth of the Bulbula and Hora Kelo rivers. The shoreline is gently sloping. The nearby Acacia woodland used to have a more or less continuous (25-m-high) canopy, but most of the trees have been felled and turned into charcoal or sold as fuelwood. Lake Shalla is south of Lake Abijatta and divided from it by a narrow strip of higher land, part of the old crater rim. Two rivers feed the lake. It has an area of c.33,000 ha and a shoreline of 118 km. It has several hot, somewhat sulphurous springs around the shore, and nine islands of which at least four are important breeding sites for birds. Bulrushes grow where the hot springs and rivers enter the lake, but most of the shore comprises steep cliffs, thus there is little place for wading birds and there are no fish. The vegetation to the east and south of the lake is AcaciaEuphorbia savanna, the most common trees being the woodland Acacia spp. (A. etbaica and A. tortilis) and Euphorbia abyssinica, and bushes of Maytenus senegalensis. The woodland around the lakes is important in keeping the highly fragile soil structure intact. In undisturbed/ungrazed areas there is a rich grass and herb flora.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. Over 400 species have been recorded from the park. The park is at one of the narrowest parts of the Great Rift Valley, a major flyway for both Palearctic and African migrants, particularly raptors, flamingos and other waterbirds. Among the globally threatened species known from the park are: Aquila heliaca (a rare passage migrant); Falco naumanni (an uncommon passage migrant with a few wintering); Circus macrourus (fairly common passage migrant, with a few wintering); and Acrocephalus griseldis (status unknown). Glareola nordmanni has also been recorded. Fish-eating birds have mostly abandoned the park since the fish in Lake Abijatta died out. However, huge numbers of many wetland species remain, such as Phoenicopterus ruber, P. minor (the numbers of which fluctuate), Anas clypeata and Charadrius pecuarius. The fringes of Lake Abijatta form an important feeding and resting ground for waders and ducks, particularly Anas clypeata, Recurvirostra avosetta, Calidris minuta and Philomachus pugnax. Smaller insectivores, such as Motacilla flava and Hirundo rustica, have also been recorded in massive numbers. The islands of Lake Shalla used to be important breeding sites for cormorants, storks and pelicans, and colonies of Phalacrocorax carbo and small numbers of Pelecanus onocrotalus still occur. One endemic, Poicephalus flavifrons, and five Afrotropical Highlands biome species have also been recorded. Among the unusual visitors to Lake Abijatta are Calidris alpina, C. melanotos, Charadrius mongolus, C. alexandrinus, Pluvialis fulva, P. squatorola, Phalaropus lobatus, Glareola nordmanni, Grus carunculatus (five in 1991–1992), Netta erythropthalma, Larus ichthyaetus and L. cachinnans.

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
Northern Shoveler Spatula clypeata winter  1994  43,736 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis winter  1995  700 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus winter  1993  59,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor winter  1993-1995  100,000-230,000 individuals  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus passage  1996  5 individuals  poor  A1  Near Threatened 
Eastern Chanting-goshawk Melierax poliopterus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus winter  1992  5 individuals  A1  Vulnerable 
Himantopus himantopus winter  1996  4,000 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta winter  1992-1993  12,000-17,200 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius winter  1996  10,968 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Little Stint Calidris minuta winter  1994  36,272 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ruff Calidris pugnax winter  1995  35,819 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Sterna nilotica winter  1994  650 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus winter  1995  2,500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black-faced Sandgrouse Pterocles decoratus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-bellied Parrot Poicephalus rufiventris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-bellied Go-away-bird Criniferoides leucogaster resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Star-spotted Nightjar Caprimulgus stellatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-billed Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus somaliensis resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill Tockus flavirostris resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Von der Decken's Hornbill Tockus deckeni resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Hemprich's Hornbill Lophoceros hemprichii resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-headed Sparrow-lark Eremopterix signatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Boran Cisticola Cisticola bodessa resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-vented Eremomela Eremomela flavicrissalis resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Scaly Chatterer Turdoides aylmeri resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-rumped Babbler Turdoides leucopygia resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bare-eyed Thrush Turdus tephronotus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-headed Buffalo-weaver Dinemellia dinemelli resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rueppell's Weaver Ploceus galbula resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Speke's Weaver Ploceus spekei resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-rumped Waxbill Estrilda charmosyna resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Steel-blue Whydah Vidua hypocherina resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds winter  100,000-499,999 individuals  unknown  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high not assessed low

Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now whole area/population (>90%) moderate to rapid deterioration very high
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Energy production and mining renewable energy happening now some of area/population (10-49%) moderate to rapid deterioration high
Human intrusions and disturbance work and other activities happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Natural system modifications other ecosystem modifications happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management planning has taken place  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Abijatta-Shalla Lakes National Park 88,700 is identical to site 88,700  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   59%
Wetlands (inland)   23%
Rocky areas   1%
Grassland   15%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
urban/industrial/transport -
other -
Notes: Charcoal production.

References Hillman (1988, 1993), Shibru Tedla (1995), Stephenson (1978), Syvertsen (1995a), Urban (1984), Zerihun Woldu and Mesfin Tadesse (1990).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Abijatta - Shalla Lakes National Park. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife