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Location Uganda, Katakwi,Kumi
Central coordinates 34o 10.00' East  1o 40.00' North
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 56,600 ha
Altitude 1,030 m
Year of IBA assessment 2001


Site description Lake Opeta and its surrounding swamp falls in four Districts; it is the only significant wetland in the Karamoja area, and one of the few remaining intact marshes in Uganda. The IBA covers Lake Opeta itself and the surrounding marsh from Lake Bisina in the west, bordering East Teso Controlled Hunting Area in the north, Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve in the east, and covering the seasonal grassland indicated as Lake Okolitorom on maps. The IBA is predominantly an extensive swamp of Miscanthus to the east and south, merging into dry Hyparrhenia grass savannas. Lake Opeta is a small lake in the middle of the swamp, covered by water-lilies Nymphaea with a thin fringe of papyrus Cyperus papyrus on the eastern side. There is a wooded island in the middle of the swamp called the Tisai, where a few people live. The area is mainly used by the Karamojong and Pokot people for grazing their cattle in the dry season.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The wetland of Lake Opeta has been considered to be of great importance for the conservation of birds, and there have been calls at the international level to afford this area a higher level of protection. It is the only permanent wetland in the Karamoja area. No detailed inventories have been conducted in this swamp, but from visits by NatureUganda staff it has been identified as important for the conservation of birds. Ploceus spekeoides has been recorded as breeding, but its overall status and distribution in Uganda remain poorly known. Species of the Lake Victoria Basin biome that are expected, but have not been recorded yet, include Bradypterus carpalis, Chloropeta gracilirostris, Cisticola carruthersi and Serinus koliensis.

Non-bird biodiversity: The IBA borders Pian-Upe Wildlife Reserve, which is important for a number of mammal species of global conservation concern. The area was formerly renowned for its large numbers of large mammals, including Panthera leo (VU). Most of the surviving large mammals are in the south of the reserve, in the buffer zone between two Karamojong tribes, the Pian and the Pokot, along the Greek river which drains into Lake Opeta. The main watering grounds for the animals are the swamps associated with the lake.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Shoebill Balaeniceps rex resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri resident  1998  present  A1, A3  Near Threatened 
Sharpe's Pied-babbler Turdoides sharpei resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-chested Sunbird Nectarinia erythrocerca resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Northern Brown-throated Weaver Ploceus castanops resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fox's Weaver Ploceus spekeoides resident  1998  present  A1, A2, A3  Near Threatened 

IBA Monitoring

2012 low favourable low
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agriculture and aquaculture annual & perennial non-timber crops - small-holder farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Agriculture and aquaculture livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Biological resource use fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now some of area/population (10-49%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Biological resource use gathering terrestrial plants - unintentional effects (species being assessed is not the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low

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

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  No management plan exists but the management planning process has begun  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  low 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Lake Opeta Wetland System Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 68,912 protected area contains site 56,600  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   55%
Unknown   21%
Wetlands (inland)   1%
Shrubland   1%
Savanna   2%
Forest   16%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
agriculture -

References Karamoja Wildlife Management Report November (1996), Karamoja Wildlife Management Report March (1997), Karamoja Wildlife Management Report June (1997), Uganda Wildlife Authority (1997).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Lake Opeta. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016

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