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Location Ethiopia, Southern Peoples' Region
Central coordinates 36o 15.00' East  4o 28.00' North
IBA criteria A4i, A4iii
Area 65,000 ha
Altitude 375 m
Year of IBA assessment 1996

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description Lake Turkana lies across the Ethiopia–Kenya border in South Omo Zone. Omo Rate is the closest settlement, 70 km north of Lake Turkana. Omo Rate is the lowest ferry-crossing on the Omo river and comprises a police post and a village of the Geleb people. The lake takes its name from the Turkana people who live round it (although it has previously been called Rudolph). The main part of the lake is in Kenya. Only the northern arc with about 52 km of shoreline is within Ethiopia. There is no direct access by road to the western shores of Lake Turkana from the Ethiopian side. The maximum depth of the lake is c.114 m. The water-level in the lake is largely determined by the rainfall in south-west Ethiopia. The main source of water is thus the Omo river that accounts for 98% of the riverine inflow. Before reaching the lake, the Omo river forms a wide delta where much of the silt load is deposited. Very little is known about the vegetation and flora on the Ethiopian side of the lake—the trees and shrubs have not been documented. The Omo delta could be expected to support riverine forest or woodland. The lake is said to have extensive reedbeds; whether Typha spp. or sedges and rushes or both is not known, but Cyperus papyrus is apparently absent from the lake. South Omo is one of the most culturally diverse regions of Ethiopia. The people of the area are hunter-gatherers, fishermen and pastoralists. An attempt to establish a mechanized farm for growing cotton on the Omo flood-plain has been abandoned. Some crops are grown on the levees beside the river upstream of the lake.

Key Biodiversity See Box for key species. Lake Turkana is clearly important for birds, with over 350 species recorded from the Kenyan side. However, the Ethiopian portion is poorly known: 64 species were recorded during surveys in February 1996, including two Circus macrourus. Other species of note include: 750 Sterna albifrons/saundersi, S. caspia (common) and 300–800 Glareola pratincola.

Non-bird biodiversity: The lake supports 48 fish species, of which 10 are endemic and eight have restricted distributions.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris non-breeding  1975  1,000 individuals  medium  A4i  Near Threatened 
A4iii Species group - waterbirds non-breeding  1996  20,000 individuals  poor  A4iii   

IBA Monitoring

1996 medium favourable negligible
Poor - based on little, or potentially unreliable/unrepresentative, data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - agro-industry farming likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) moderate to rapid deterioration low
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - nomadic grazing likely in long term (beyond 4 years) small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - herbicides and pesticides likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium
Pollution agricultural & forestry effluents - nutrient loads likely in long term (beyond 4 years) some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Wetlands (inland)   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Rynchops flavirostris African Skimmer 1000 1000 individuals 100 not assessed

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

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Chew Bahir Wildlife Reserve 273,000 protected area is adjacent to site 0  
Omo West Controlled Hunting Area 456,100 protected area is adjacent to site 0  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Savanna Bushland & thicket - deciduous; Bushland & thicket - evergreen; Wooded grassland  57%
Wetlands (inland) Freshwater lakes and pools; Permanent herbaceous swamps and bogs; Rivers & streams  17%
Grassland Grassland - edaphic, dry; Grassland - Semi-desert  25%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -
fisheries/aquaculture -

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Turkana and Omo delta. Downloaded from on 26/10/2016

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