Danakil lowlands

Country/territory: Eritrea

IBA criteria met: A3 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 69,000 ha

Site description (2001 baseline)
The site lies on the southern coastal plain in the Danakil region between Asseb and Gehare. Bird records from the Asseb–Gehare area on the coast of the Danakil lowlands indicate that a site within this general area will merit IBA status. Further survey work will be required to define the exact location and boundaries of a site. The area is defined as arid to semi-arid; rainfall declines progressively southwards throughout the Danakil region, to less than 40 mm annually at Asseb, and vegetation is largely confined to wadis. Temperatures in the southern Danakil can exceed 50°C during June to September and diurnal averages are exceptionally high due to high night-time temperatures. The area is characterized by black basalt lava-fields and sandy, stony or shell plains. Dominant vegetation is Acacia mellifera on the lava and scattered A. tortilis, A. nubica and Balanites aegyptiaca on the plains. The coastline is as described for the Gulf of Zula (ER009), with offshore islands and reefs, sandy dunes, mud-, sand- and saltflats and mangroves (principally Avicennia sp.) in the bays and inlets.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Phoenicopterus minor was reported as a rare visitor to the coastal flats, saltpans and tidal inlets including single birds at Asseb, usually with P. ruber, in the 1950s. The site is the only IBA in Eritrea from which the Sahara–Sindian biome species Oenanthe leucopyga is recorded (by Smith, in the lava-fields near Asseb) and one of only two sites for the Somali–Masai biome species, Francolinus leucoscepus. There are records of two Sahel biome species; see Table 2. Two Afrotropical Highlands biome species, Columba albitorques and Corvus crassirostris are recorded from Mount Ramlu (2,100 m), within the Danakil region, but not within the proposed IBA area (Mount Ramlu lies c.75 km to the north-west). These are old records and Mount Ramlu is not considered to merit the status of a separate IBA without additional and more recent information on its bird populations. Struthio camelus is said to be fairly numerous in the Danakil region and Smith reported that the area just north of Asseb harboured very large numbers of Palearctic migrants, especially Sylvia spp. and Phylloscopus spp. warblers, very large numbers of Lanius spp. (especially L. collurio) and raptors, Milvus migrans and Gyps spp.

Non-bird biodiversity: Oryx beisa are known to have occurred in the Danakil region in the past, but there are no recent sightings and it is believed they may have been hunted to extinction by the occupying Ethiopian army. Equus africanus somaliensis (CR), Gazella dorcas (VU) and G. soemmeringi (VU) are all known from the area, some populations probably moving between the Buri peninsula (see Gulf of Zula, ER009) and Danakil region. The two gazelle species are also said to be numerous south of Asseb, towards the Djibouti border.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Danakil lowlands. Downloaded from on 04/10/2023.