The site lies in north-eastern Senegal, south of the Senegal river which forms the border with Mauritania at this point. The site lies between the valleys of the Senegal river and the Ferlo river (the latter usually remains dry) at an altitude of less than 100 m, even though it is over 300 km inland. Although crossed by a number of river channels, the area is mainly very dry with sandy soils and occasional pockets of clay. In the rainy season, water accumulates in old river channels and depressions, leading to concentrations of animals in these areas and more lush vegetation along these ancient watercourses. The vegetation is Sahel thorn-bush savanna, dominated by Acacia spp. and Balanites aegyptiaca, larger trees such as Bombax costatum, Pterocarpus erinaceus and Combretum glutinosum, and shrubs of Boscia spp. Episodes of low rainfall combined with overgrazing by cattle and goats have turned many areas into semi-desert and sandstorms are common as a result.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Until 1996, the site had not been comprehensively surveyed for birds, but in January to March of that year Ornis Consult conducted detailed survey work in this site and in Ferlo South (site SN008). A total of 184 bird species are now recorded from the two reserves combined. The site is important for Palearctic migrants, especially raptors. These include Circus macrourus (individuals or small numbers recorded in each month of the 1996 surveys and reported as fairly common wintering in the north down to 15°N), C.pygargus, and Falco naumanni, also recorded on the site and said to be scarce to frequent in northern and central Senegal. The Sahel biome species found at this site include Ardeotis arabs, declining throughout northern Senegal, and Passer luteus, which is found throughout the north and spreading south, indicating a general drying-out of northern areas. Ploceus heuglini, one of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome species, is recorded from no other IBA in Senegal. Two species restricted to the Sahara–Sindian (A02) are also recorded (Alaemon alaudipes and Ammomanes deserti). Ostriches, Struthio camelus, were known to occur previously in the northern Ferlo and were recorded in the 1996 surveys, but their range has been greatly reduced and the residual population is probably very small.
Non-bird biodiversity: Residual populations of Gazella rufifrons (VU) and G. dorcas (VU) are reported as still extant in the Ferlo, but these species, along with most other wild mammals, have been hunted very heavily and are extremely rare in the region. The tortoise Geochelone sulcata (VU) occurs within the site.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Until recently, the Ferlo North Avifaunal Reserve was really only a reserve in name or on paper. Overgrazing throughout the area, coupled with periodic droughts, reduced many areas to semi-desert; grasses that sprouted following rainfall were often grazed away before seeding, leaving large areas of bare sand. In 1995, a three-year programme was established by the Senegalese Department of National Parks, the Department of Water and Forests, the ‘Centre de Suivi Ecologique’, the IUCN office in Senegal and Ornis Consult Ltd (Denmark). This will prepare an integrated rural development plan for both the Ferlo North and Ferlo South (site SN008) Avifaunal Reserves. The programme is funded by Danida (the Danish Department of International Development Cooperation) and aims to protect and restore the Sahelian ecosystem and biodiversity within the reserves, while also developing sustainable local uses of the reserves’ resources. There are plans for the reintroduction of Sahelian mammals and reptiles into the reserve from the captive-breeding programmes at Guembeul Avifaunal Reserve (site SN005), but these have not yet been implemented successfully.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Ferlo North. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2020.