Djibouti faces a wide range of conservation problems, principally over-grazing of most areas, deforestation, desertification and industrial and urban spread around Djibouti city. Two areas of coral reef around the islands of Moucha and Maskali are designated as protected areas and the Forêt du Day was formerly listed as a National Park but this designation no longer appears to be valid. Enforcement of conservation and environmental legislation is largely non-existent.
The African Bird Club made an award in 2004 for survey and research work on the rare and endangered Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus by Djiboutian Houssein A Rayaleh, with technical assistance from the World Pheasant Association and the Partridge, Quail and Francolin specialist group of BirdLife.
The African Bird Club partly funded waterbird counts in the country in February 2001. The awards were made in order to train staff from the Djibouti government in survey techniques so that these surveys would become self-sustaining WELCH, G.R., WELCH, H.J. and RAYALEH, H.A. (2003).
25th February 2011: Update from Houssein Rayaleh
The major conservation concern in Djibouti is the rapid expansion of two invasive species Prosopis juliflora and Indian House Crow Corvus splendens which are causing increasing amounts of damage to biological diversity. Further, the status of many migratory raptors particularly scavenger species such as Griffon Gyps fulvus and Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppelliimay be an important concern because of a growing decline in their distribution ranges.
In addition, many globally threatened species have never or rarely been surveyed to evaluate their status at national level. Such vulnerable species are Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni and Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus.
Furthermore, there is growing concern in Djibouti that its natural fauna and flora are under increasing threat. There is continued degradation of important ecosystems such as temporary wetlands, coastal wetlands and the very few forested areas.
Currently, the data on the status of Djibouti’s natural habitats is lacking or limited and has not been updated within the past two decades. This is particularly so in the case of many globally threatened species apart from the critically endangered Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus. Djibouti’s confirmed IBAs are of urgent need of review.
The level of environmental awareness and appreciation of nature remains very low but an upcoming number of enthusiastic young groups are being established. Djibouti continues to have limited national capacity in the field of ornithology (one person) and there are no local birders at all, limiting our capacity to carry out significant studies, implement environmental management programs and / or develop nature based tourism programs.
17th January 2008: Bald Ibis jigsaw falling into place
Efforts to save the Middle East’s rarest bird have been boosted by two chance sightings of the species 1,500 miles apart. Northern Bald Ibises were seen last month in the Jordan Valley for the first time in 13 years, and in Djibouti, east Africa, for the first time ever, raising hopes that numbers of this species are not as low as scientists fear.
The bird was thought extinct in the Middle East in the 1990s before a colony of just six birds was found in Palmyra, Syria in 2002. Since then, adult and young birds have been fitted with satellite tags by the RSPB and BirdLife Middle East, to try to discover and protect their migration routes and wintering sites. The tagged adult birds are currently in Ethiopia for the winter.
Dr Jeremy Lindsell, a Research Biologist at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), said: “These sightings are great news. They were entirely unexpected and in some ways deepen the mystery of where they go on migration. The fact that the birds are in three different sites away from their breeding grounds reflects the little we know of their numbers and where they go. It also shows how essential it is that we keep tracking the birds so that we can protect them throughout their range.”
Two adult Northern Bald Ibises were spotted on the Yardena cliffs on the Israel / Jordan border early last month. They were seen by a researcher surveying black storks and had disappeared when he returned the following day. Two weeks later, a young Bald Ibis was found on the beach at Tadjoura, eastern Djibouti, by a group of Swedish birdwatchers. The bird was searching for food and its appearance astonished the visitors.
Dr Henrik Lind was amongst the visiting group from the Swedish bird organisation Club300. He said: “We knew about the Syrian birds and our first thought was that this bird was from Palmyra. When a young boy from the village saw the bird, he told us there were others nearby. We didn’t find the others but it was fantastic to see one Bald Ibis so far from where they breed.”
Tracking adult birds was successful in 2006 when three birds flew a total of 3,700 miles to the Ethiopian highlands and back last spring. But readings from the satellite tag fitted to a young bird last summer failed in August and the fate of that bird is unknown.
The Djibouti find is more significant for scientists because the bird was a juvenile and very few of the 25 birds fledged in Syria since 2002 have returned.
Conservationists fear the missing birds are being shot on migration but until they know the young birds’ migration route, they cannot alert hunters to their rarity.
Scientists hope to tag more young birds in Syria this summer in a second bid to reveal their migration route. The also hope to agree steps to protect the species from hunters, with colleagues from Ethiopia, Yemen and other countries on the adult birds’ migration route.
The only other known population of Northern Bald Ibises is in south-west Morocco but it is thought that the birds in the Jordan Valley and Djibouti flew from Syria.
Sharif Al Jbour of BirdLife said: “Unless there is another colony we know nothing of, it seems young Bald Ibis are strong enough to fly as far as Djibouti which is nearly 1,700 miles from Palmyra. “We are gradually piecing the jigsaw together but it is a long process fraught with problems. How we alert hunters in remote areas to just how rare this bird is, is something we must urgently resolve.”
Source: BirdLife International