Sites - Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
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Lake Turkana and Omo delta
Ethiopia, Southern Peoples' Region
36o 15.00' East 4o 28.00' North
Year of IBA assessment
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.