Winter home for 3 million birds

09 April 2010 | Fact sheet

Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary, Senegal

Managed by the Senegalese National Parks Service of the Ministry for the protection of Nature, the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary is the 3rd largest wetland in the world. It’s a large seasonally flooded area of lakes, bayous, ponds and rivers.One of the first stops after the Sahara Desert for birds migrating from Europe; it can, during the winter months, host up to 3 million migrating birds and accommodates a large bird breeding population.

 View photos of the area:


Background

A national bird sanctuary since 1971, Djoudj lies on the southeast bank of the River Senegal in Senegal, north east of St-Louis. In 1977, it was designated a wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention and became one of the first world heritage properties in 1981 due to its incomparable beauty and importance for migratory birds. It is a national park or IUCN Category II area. IUCN Category II Areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities.

Size: 160 Km2

Inscription on World Heritage List:

The sanctuary was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981, following a recommendation from IUCN. IUCN is the advisory body for natural and mixed heritage properties to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee

It was put on the World Heritage List in Danger in the Year 2000 after an evaluation done by IUCN and Ramsar on the threat posed by the invasive species, Salvina Modesta. A plan of eradication action was put in place and the sanctuary was rehabilitated in 2006.

Flora and Fauna

The sanctuary was mainly established for supporting three million waterfowl, and is one of the main West African sanctuaries for Palaearctic migrant birds. It is one of the first fresh water sources birds reach after crossing 200km of the Sahara Desert. From September to April, an estimated three million migrants pass through, including garganey Anas auerauedula, shoveler Anas clvpeata acuta, ruff Philomachus nuanax, pintail and black-tailed godwit and limosa. It is the only known wintering sanctuary for the aquatic warbler, Europe’s most globally threatened passerine bird.

The sanctuary is also a major breeding area for thousands of nesting birds: flamingoes, white pelicans, white-faced and fulvus tree ducks, bicolor spur-winged geese, purple and night heron, egrets, spoonbills, African darters, common and white-breasted cormorants, and Sudan bustards among others. Mammals include warthogs and West African manatees.

Crocodiles and gazelle have been successfully reintroduced into the area.

Threats

The Salvina Molesta, an invasive plant that can double its growth in 24 hours, is a major threat to the sanctuary and caused it to be inscribed on the World Heritage List in Danger in 2000. Salvina Molesta’s clogs waterways and blocks sunlight needed by other aquatic plants. As it decomposes it uses up the oxygen in the water and prevents the natural exchange of gases between the air & the body of water causing the waterway to stagnate. This can kill any plants, insects or fish trapped underneath it. Migratory birds may not be able to recognise an infested waterway when flying over head and so may not stop at it. S. molesta also provides ideal conditions for the breeding of mosquitoes that carry disease. The growth habit of salvinia also is problematic to human activities including flood mitigation, conservation of endangered species & threatened environments, boating and irrigation.

As of 2001, plant-eating weevils were introduced to combat its invasion and the site was taken off the list in 2006. There is continuous surveillance now on site and the weevils can be reintroduced annually.