Chelekleka lake and swamp

Country/territory: Ethiopia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A4i, A4iii (1996)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 24,000 ha

Protection status:

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Site description
Chelekleka is a seasonally inundated pan, the western and south-western sides of which form the periphery of Debre Zeit town. Debre Zeit is in East Shewa Zone, 50 km west of the zonal capital, Nazaret. Chelekleka is in a shallow pan into which fresh water seeps and flows from the surrounding cultivated slopes. Water fills the muddy depression during the rainy season and persists well into the dry season. The two highland ranges of Teltele and Sofa, on the north-eastern side of the swamp, are the main catchments for Chelekleka. Because of its shallow nature, the lake’s shoreline is wide. The size of the inundated area varies dramatically from year to year, although recently the size of the swamp has been reduced through the construction of flood-control dykes in the feeder streams, and channeling run-off from the town into Bishoftu lake (site ET032). The swamp is relatively rich in aquatic vegetation, with Typha spp., sedges, rushes, Potamogeton spp., Persicaria spp. and the floating grass Odontelytrum abyssinicum. The area around the lake is intensively used. As the waters retreat, peasant farmers cultivate vegetables on the rich alluvial soils left behind on its northern and eastern sides, and it is not uncommon to see some cultivation throughout the year. A thriving private citrus farm exists on the lake’s southern side. This wetland is also an important watering point for cattle in the area. Debre Zeit is an important town (see site ET032).

Key biodiversity
See Box for key species. This lake is important for the large concentrations of waterfowl that it supports on a seasonal basis, including a substantial wintering population Grus grus that is assumed to be part of a larger population wintering in the Debre Zeit, Koka and Akaki area. Chelekleka supports, along with the other Debre Zeit lakes, a wintering population of 10–15 Aythya nyroca. Numbers of Phoenicopterus minor present on the lake are known to fluctuate unpredictably. Circus macrourus is fairly common on spring and autumn passage, with small numbers overwintering. Aquila heliaca and Aquila pomarina have been reported during autumn migration. A survey in February 1996 recorded substantial numbers of waterbirds, including Tachybaptus ruficollis (150+), Bubulcus ibis (1,800+), Phoenicopterus minor (3,000+), Alopochen aegyptiacus (1,000+), Plectropterus gambensis (250+), Fulica cristata (300+), Philomachus pugnax (500+), Anas acuta (300+), Anas querquedula (200+), Anas clypeata (500+) and Netta erythrophthalma (150+), as well as smaller numbers of Nettapus auritus and Thalassornis leuconotus. There is one record of Vanellus leucurus from Chelekleka.

Non-bird biodiversity: None known to BirdLife International.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Chelekleka lake and swamp. Downloaded from on 24/01/2020.