Yabello Sanctuary lies 10 km east of Yabello town in Borana Zone, with the Yabello–Arero road passing through its southern part. Precise boundaries for this protected area have not been set. Most of the area is at c.1,700 m, although the topography is broken and varies between 1,430 and 2,000 m. The area is notable for its red soils which have little organic matter. The general vegetation-type is Acacia savanna, the major trees being A. drepanolobium on black cotton soil, and A. brevispica and A. horrida on the slopes. There are also patches of Balanites aegyptiaca, and several species of Commiphora and Terminalia are found at the lower altitudes. The higher parts of the hills used to be covered with Juniperus procera and Olea europaea cuspidata forest. However, only a few patches remain, most of the trees having been cut and the wood taken for construction and other purposes. The dominant land-use is pastoralism, as practised by the Borana people.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Yabello Sanctuary is an important protected area for Hirundo megaenis and Zavattariornis stresemanni, both of which are fairly common, but are confined to this general area. The two species occupy similar habitats, namely open, arid, short-grass country with scattered low Acacia bushes and, in spite of recent land-use changes, neither appears to be under any particular threat. Hirundo megaenis breeds in the main rainy season during April–May, with nests found on rafters inside traditional houses in the Yabello area. There are old records of Falco fasciinucha from the Yabello hills, but none since 1942. During a brief survey in June 1996, 210 species were recorded in the area, including 56 Somali–Masai biome species, many of which appear to be very common. Other interesting species include Francolinus levaillantoides, Campethera cailliautii and Anthus caffer. Caprimulgus donaldsoni and C. stellatus may also occur within the area. In addition, one species of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome has been recorded at this site; see Table 3.
Non-bird biodiversity: Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynei (EN) is apparently still present, although very few have been found since 1970. Surveys in 1990 recorded 25 mammal species.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Sanctuary was set up to afford protection to the endemic Alcelaphus buselaphus swaynei. Although designated as part of the official protected-area system, very little has been done to develop the infrastructure of the Sanctuary. For example, all the park staff live 10 km away in the town of Yabello. Responsibility for conservation of such areas now resides with the Regional Government, so it is hoped that more attention can be given to developing such areas through collaboration among the Regional and Zonal Bureau, and the local communities.
BirdLife International (2019) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Yabello Sanctuary. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 16/01/2019.