Babille Elephant Sanctuary lies between Harar City and Jijiga town (22 km east of the city) in East Harerghe Zone. This huge Sanctuary extends south from the small town of Babille in the direction of Fik. Five major rivers, the Gobele, Erer, Dakota, Borale and Fafen, flow southwards through the Sanctuary to drain into the Wabi Shebelle river. The valleys formed by the Erer, Dakota and Fafen rivers are significant physical features within the Sanctuary. There are also ridges and small plateaus, or plains, between the watersheds. Most of the area comprises sandstone with limestone in places, as around Fik. The Fafen and other river valleys were apparently once covered in dense bushland, but this has been cleared or much reduced as more and more pastoralists have taken up crop cultivation. The people in this area are traditionally pastoralists, but population pressure is forcing increasing numbers into a more sedentary existence. In the 1960s, there were some swampy patches beside the rivers, but a subsequent major lowering of the water-table in many of the valleys has probably adversely affected these wetlands. The hillsides and small plateaus are covered in Acacia bushland mixed with succulents such as Euphorbia spp. and Adenia aculeata, particularly on the limestone. The plateaus are mainly covered in grasses with scattered bushes.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. A preliminary survey in 1995 found 106 species, including 24 Somali–Masai biome species, of which Mirafra gilletti and the little-known Turdoides aylmeri are the most noteworthy. The threatened Serinus xantholaema is known from two specimens collected nearby at Bisidimo, but its presence has not yet been confirmed within the sanctuary. However, local people recognize the species from illustrations, and claim to know it well from areas in the sanctuary adjacent to Fik.
Non-bird biodiversity: An endemic elephant subspecies, Loxodonta africana orleansi (EN) occurs in the sanctuary. The lions Panthera leo (VU) are notable for their black manes.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Sanctuary was set up in the late 1970s to provide protection to the endemic elephant subspecies and other large mammals. Even though it is one of the largest officially protected areas in Ethiopia, the protection and management it has received has been minimal. The elephants have continuously been disturbed and, in the past, damage to local farms has resulted in their persecution. Incursions of refugees and their livestock from neighbouring Somalia are also threatening the natural resources of the area. Much of the area has now been taken over by farming communities and large fruit farms are seen along the valleys. Tree-cutting is another threat to the site. Many of the local people are aware of the deterioration of their resources, but with increasing numbers of refugees to accommodate there appear to be few alternatives.