Baro river

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
The site is the course and flood-zone of the 448 km Baro river. Along with its tributaries, the river dominates Gambella Region. The Baro is the only navigable river in the country: during the rainy season traders used to travel by boat between Gambella town and Khartoum in the Sudan. The Baro meets the Pibor river to the west of Jikawo. During the rainy season the river floods to form the huge inundated area to the east and south of Jikawo, previously penetrating as far as Abobo and Gog to the east and south-east.

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. In the dry season, when the Baro river is low, huge numbers of storks and other waterbirds (including pelicans, herons, egrets, etc.) gather to rest on sandbars in the river. A flock of 500 Glareola nordmanni, apparently wintering, was noted at Jikawo in January 1970. Balaeniceps rex was recorded from swamps 20 km west of Gambella in the early 1960s, and was also found 60 km west of the western perimeter of Gambella National Park, west of Gog, in 1973. There is an unconfirmed 1996 report of B. rex breeding in the vicinity of Nasir in West Nile province, Sudan, adjacent to Jikawo, and large numbers have been reported from the Baro river system in Sudan, suggesting that the species may be present on the Ethiopian side of the border close to Nasir. During March 1976, thousands of Anastomus lamelligerus were recorded between Itang and Jikawo, and similar numbers of Ciconia abdimii were found between Pukwo and Jikawo. The latter species is thought to be an irregular non-breeding visitor.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The water of the Gambella plain rivers is of sufficiently high quality to be considered suitable for domestic water-supply and agricultural irrigation. There is currently only limited water abstraction, primarily for domestic purposes. A large and detailed master plan for the Baro–Akobo basin has been developed and some aspects are being implemented. The plan focuses on the development of irrigated agriculture for industrial crops like sugar-cane and cotton, and the application of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides will result in the build-up of chemical residues in the soil and river/swamp water. The master plan suggests several mitigation measures such as the establishment of water-conservation zones and bank-protection strips to reduce run-off entering the river system. It also recommends the treatment of domestic and industrial sewage and waste-water. Such measures must be implemented, and their efficacy monitored if an ecological disaster (such as is happening in the lower Awash river) is to be avoided.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Baro river. Downloaded from on 14/08/2022.