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Location Ethiopia, Southern Peoples' Region
Central coordinates 35o 45.78' East  5o 55.32' North
IBA criteria A3
Area 430,000 ha
Altitude 450 - 1,540m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society



Site description Omo National Park is on the west bank of the Omo river in the lower Omo valley. The park is c.140 km long, stretching from the Neruze river in the south to the Sharum plain in the north, and up to 60 km wide where the Park Headquarters are situated. Major land features include the Omo river on the east, the Maji mountains and the Sharum and Sai plains in the north and west, and the Lilibai plains and Dirga Hills to the south. There are three hot springs, and the park is crossed by a number of rivers, all of which drain into the Omo. The important Mui river crosses the middle of the park. Much of the park is at c.800 m but the southern part by the Neruze river drops to 450 m. The highest peak in the Maji mountains is 1,541 m. The edges of the Omo river, which borders the park along its length to the east, are covered by close stands of tall trees including Tamarindus indica, Ficus sycamorus and F. salicifolia, Kigelia aethiopium, Phoenix reclinata, Terminalia brownii, Acacia polyacantha and others. A well-developed shrub layer combined with woody and herbaceous climbers provides dense cover along the edge of the river which, however, is frequently broken by incoming streams and the activities of the local people and animals (particularly Hippopotamus amphibius). Away from the river edge, dense stands of Euphorbia tirucalli abound, the canopies shading standing water long after the rains have abated. The park also embraces extensive open grasslands interspersed with stands of woodland species, and bush vegetation.

The park is home to the Surma, Kwegu and Dizi peoples, with the Bume making much use of areas in the south and the Mursi crossing the Omo river from the east. These people are pastoralists and hunter-gatherers, but also cultivate a few crops on the river levees, and make extensive use of the river’s resources. They hunt wild animals for meat, skins and items to sell, in particular elephant tusks. The lower Omo valley as a whole, including Omo and Mago National Parks, is one of the least-developed in terms of modern-day investments. The poor road network in the region is perhaps one reason why the area has stayed intact. This has assisted in delaying the destruction of the lifestyles of the people who live there as well as the balance of natural resources on which they depend. The track from Jinka in the east to the edge of the Omo river is only accessible in the dry season (August–February). Another track, from Maji to the Omo National Park on the west, is almost impassable and is mostly used only by Omo National Park vehicles and a few other adventurous visiting groups. Omo National Park was established to conserve the area’s rich wildlife and develop the area for tourism. However, the potential of the Omo river (between the two parks) for recreation and tourism activities has not been fully realized. Since the mid-1970s, the National Parks—Omo to the west and Mago to the east of the river—have not been able to attract many visitors, largely as a result of the communication barrier created by the Omo river and the very poor tourist facilities in the parks. This is now being remedied. A ferryboat is being refurbished to take people and vehicles across the river near to the Omo National Park headquarters. As from 1993, the number of visitors coming to the lower Omo has been increasing: private tour companies bring tourists to the edge of the river in the dry seasons. The visitors come to enjoy the wildlife, to meet the Mursi and some of the other ethnic groups, and even to white-water raft on the Omo. A former hunting camp along the high banks of the Omo, in Murle, now serves as a well-maintained safari lodge.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Trachyphonus darnaudii resident  1996  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Black-throated Barbet Tricholaema melanocephala resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-and-yellow Barbet Trachyphonus erythrocephalus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-necked Francolin Pternistis leucoscepus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Chanting-goshawk Melierax poliopterus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Buff-crested Bustard Lophotis gindiana 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 
Sombre Nightjar Caprimulgus fraenatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Abyssinian Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus minor 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 
Rosy-patched Bush-shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-naped Bush-shrike Laniarius ruficeps resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-winged Lark Mirafra hypermetra resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Boran Cisticola Cisticola bodessa resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Ashy Cisticola Cisticola cinereolus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey Wren-warbler Camaroptera simplex resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rufous Chatterer Turdoides rubiginosa resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted White-eye Zosterops abyssinicus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Shelley's Starling Lamprotornis shelleyi resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-crowned Starling Spreo albicapillus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bare-eyed Thrush Turdus tephronotus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Grey Flycatcher Bradornis microrhynchus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kenya Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes orientalis resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser donaldsoni resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Parrot-billed Sparrow Passer gongonensis resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-headed Buffalo-weaver Dinemellia dinemelli resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey-headed Silverbill Lonchura griseicapilla resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-bellied Canary Serinus dorsostriatus resident  1996  present  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Omo National Park 406,800 is identical to site 406,800  
Tama Wildlife Reserve 326,900 protected area is adjacent to site 0  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland Bushland & thicket - deciduous; Bushland & thicket - evergreen  56%
Savanna Bushland & thicket - deciduous; Bushland & thicket - evergreen; Wooded grassland  1%
Grassland   33%
Forest Lowland forest - dry deciduous; Lowland forest - riparian; Woodland - riparian  6%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture minor
Notes: The Omo riverbanks are used for flood-retreat cultivation more by the Bodi, Mursi, Bume and Dasenetch peoples than the other ethnic groups. This kind of cultivation is practised after the river waters recede during September. The principal crop is sorghum and the average plot size is c.0.25 ha per household.
nature conservation and research major
tourism/recreation minor

Other biodiversity None known to BirdLife International. The current mammal list for the park is 73 species, and the reptile diversity is reportedly high.

References Ash (1976), Enawgaw (1996), Erickson (1982), Ethiopian Tourism Commission (undated b), Fetwi et al. (1986), Hillman (1993), Kaji (1979), Netsereab et al. (1996), Ono and Doi (1983), Stephenson and Mizuno (1978), Tefera (1994).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Omo National Park. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 16/09/2014

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