Djibouti, Forêt du Day in the Goda mountains
BirdLife International identified seven Important Bird Areas (IBAs), most qualifying for the biome-restricted communities they support. These seven areas total 1,112 km2, approximately 5% of the country, and none are officially protected.
Of greatest conservation concern is the Forêt du Day in the Goda mountains in the north of Djibouti with an altitudinal range between c. 1200 m to c. 1750 m. This is the main site for the endemic and critically endangered Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus. The ecosystem is dry tropical Afromontane mixed woodland and consists of one of the few forested areas still remaining in the country. Historically, the dominant forest tree was African pencil cedar Juniperus procera, which formed a closed canopy forest. A dramatic decline in the last 20-30 years has left a large proportion of the junipers dead or dying, and the canopy open.
At higher altitudes, the understorey consists principally of Buxus hildebrandtii, whilst in peripheral and lower areas the main species are Acacia seyal, A. etbaica and A. mellifera. Scattered large Ficus sp. occur throughout. Beyond the forested plateaus at high altitude are extensive basalt plains with scattered shrubs including many Euphorbia sp. There are valleys with permanent open water in many areas, favoured habitat of the regionally vulnerable endemic Bankoualé palm Livistona carinensis.
The ecology of this landform is considered an isolated outlier of the Ethiopian Montane forest hotspot and ecozone, an important island of forest in a semi desert. The Forêt Du Day is home to 70% of the land based biological diversity and hosts a variety of rare, extremely arid-adapted species including Djibouti Francolin, Leopard and Livistona trees. It has survived for many centuries as a reservoir of biological diversity and important natural resources which feed and contribute to the local community. Firewood collection on the lower slopes, hunting and human disturbance are all of concern. Part of Forêt du Day was declared a National Park in 1939 and more recently a protected area but the designation is no longer valid.
Mabla mountains is approximately 60 km east of the Forêt du Day, and the only other documented site for the Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus though the population is thought to be extremely small. It is the second largest area of relict montane forest and it was described as contiguous with the Forêt du Day. Today however there are no longer juniper trees in the area and the dominant tree species are Acacia seyal, Buxus hildebrandtii with locally abundant Acacia etbaica and common Acacia mellifera.The area also supports breeding Verreauxs' Aquila verreauxii and Bonelli’s Eagles Hieraaetus fasciatus and a colony of Rüppell’s Vultures Gyps rueppellii.
Kadda Guéini-Douméra is a 61km stretch of sandy coast line north of Obock, which includes the rocky outcrops of Ras Siyan and Doumera, and is the main crossing point of the Red Sea for the huge numbers of birds of prey that pass through annually.
Les Sept Frères is an archipelago of six islands (the ‘seventh’ is Ras Siyan) at the mouth of the Bab el Mandeb which supports large breeding colonies of Greater Sterna bergii and Lesser Crested Terns S. bengalensis, though egg collecting is known to take place so numbers may be severely reduced. In addition and in certain weather conditions, the islands play an important role in assisting migrating raptors complete their crossing of the Bab el Mandeb straits.
Lac Abhé is the largest inland water body in Djibouti and forms part of the western border with Ethiopia, which supports large numbers of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber. The lake is the final ‘outlet’ of the Awash River but damming of the river upstream in Ethiopia has reduced freshwater inputs significantly and the lake has been drastically reduced in size over the last 50 years.
Ali Sabieh-Assamo is a region of lightly wooded wadis along the south-eastern border with Ethiopia supporting a range of Somali-Masai biome-restricted species such as Yellow-necked Spurfowl Francolinus leucoscepus and Eastern Chanting Goshawk Melierax poliopterus.
Doda is a large alluvial plain in the north-west of the country, subject to periodic inundation. The area supports several Sahel biome-restricted species and there was an impressive count of 1,300 Marsh Sandpipers Tringa stagnatilis in December 1998 when the area was extensively flooded. When inundated, the site also supports important breeding and passage wintering waders, e.g. breeding Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca have been confirmed. The site is one of the few known sites for breeding Ostrich Struthio camelus.
No Endemic Bird Areas are recognised, though the Forêt du Day is listed in Stattersfield et al (1998) as a Secondary Area because of the Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus.
For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.