IBA Criteria met: A3 (2001)
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Area: 23,000 ha
The site lies on the Central Plateau, about 80 km north-west of Asmara. The bird data are not good enough to define the boundaries of a site, but combined records from the general area of Keren and the upper Anseba river valley above 1,200 m show that a site within this area will merit definition as an IBA. The coordinates used are those for the railway town of Elaborad Station. Most of the bird records are from around Keren or Elaborad and are therefore probably within an altitudinal range of 1,200 m or 1,500 m to 1,800 m. However, the ground away from the towns and main roads rises steeply and, depending on how the IBA boundary is drawn, it could include areas of land over 2,100 m (and even higher peaks, e.g. 2,360 m in the vicinity of Elaborad Station). The area is rugged upland, with high cliffs and deep river valleys. East of Keren is an almost sheer mountain wall, north of which lies the Anseba valley which separates eastern and western parts of the plateau. The slopes below Keren are boulder-strewn and scrub-covered, contrasting with the forested slopes of the eastern escarpment at the same altitude. The land falls irregularly to the west, with very deep river valleys, to about 900 m, after which it flattens out into the Western Plain. The upper slopes are rocky and barren, with montane scrub and sparse grassland extending down to about 1,500 m.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The site is one of only two IBAs in Eritrea with definite records of Emberiza cineracea, although there are no details of numbers and no records more recent than those of Smith who recorded it as very scarce in winter at Keren in the 1950s. Smith also recorded Circus macrourus as regularly wintering over the moors of the Central Plateau, together with Falco tinnunculus. The site is one of only two IBAs in the country with records of the Sahel biome species Spiloptila clamans and of the Afrotropical Highland biome species Apus niansae. There are also records from the site for three Somali–Masai (A08) biome species. In addition, there are records (from another location on the Central Plateau (Melezanei), at similar altitude, but further south towards Asmara) of the Sudan–Guinea (A04) biome species Falco alopex and of the Afrotropical Highland species Agapornis taranta (see Table 2).
Non-bird biodiversity: Smith reports a game reserve containing large numbers of Tragelaphus strepsiceros (LR/cd) in the large valley of the Anseba, north of Keren, but no more recent information is available.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Central Plateau (Keren). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 29/03/2023.