Delta du Saloum

Country/territory: Senegal

IBA criteria met: A1, A3, A4, B1a, B3a, B3b (2019)
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Area: 180,000 ha

Nature - Communautés - Développement
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) Threat (pressure) Condition (state) Action (response)
2001 high not assessed medium
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Site description (baseline)
The site consists of the deltas of the seasonal Sine, Saloum and Diombos rivers. It lies south-west of Kaolack, and forms the border with The Gambia at the Atlantic coast, where it is contiguous with Niumi National Park (IBA GM003). The whole delta area covers a linear distance of 72.5 km along the Atlantic coast and stretches 35 km inland. Much of the delta area consists of mangroves (principally Rhizophora spp. and Avicennia nitida), which extend 70 km upstream to Kaolack. The Biosphere Reserve (and IBA) covers an area of 180,000 ha, of which 95,000 ha is marine, rivers or inundated areas (30,000 ha of which is intertidal), and 85,000 ha is terrestrial savanna or forest (either mainland or islands in the river channels). Part of the site (76,000 ha) is designated as a National Park and Ramsar Site (the Parc National du Delta du Saloum). This consists of 61,000 ha of sea and rivers, 7,000 ha of intertidal mangroves and saltwater vegetation and 8,000 ha of terrestrial savanna or forest (including the dry sand-dune forest of ‘Fathala’).

The site consists of sea and sandy coast (including the ‘Pointe de Sangomar’), sand, mud and shell islands and islets, tidal swamps, mangroves, sandbars, lagoons, streams and creeks or ‘bolongs’, savanna and forest. North of the main Saloum river channel, the islets tend to be sandy and subject to infrequent tidal flooding. These areas are either almost devoid of vegetation or colonized by a herb layer, e.g. Sesuvium portulacastrum, Paspalum vaginatum. At the edges, where flooding is seasonal not tidal, flood-plain grasses develop. There are also large areas of saline sand and fossil mangroves (‘tanns’) which support little vegetation, and some mangrove-covered islets. South of the river channel, mangroves growing on mud islets (almost entirely covered at high tide) dominate the area. There is a network of inter-linking channels and additional, seasonal freshwater streams flow in to the delta from the landward side. Towards the eastern end of the site, on areas that are never inundated by salt water, there are baobabs Adansonia digitata and Acacia trees. Some areas of saltmarsh and lagoon are exploited for the production of salt, for example the ‘Salines de Kaolack’, south-west of the town.

The core area (the National Park) and part of the buffer zone of the Biosphere Reserve are owned by the State, but the remainder is owned by the local community and managed through liaison between a rural council and National Park and forest service authorities. Human uses within the park include nature conservation, tourism, and gathering of grasses and other plant products. Activities in areas around the site include livestock-rearing, agriculture (mainly growing of millet), fishing and hunting.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 2 for key species. The site is important for a very wide variety of waterbirds and seabirds, some occurring in large congregations. The marine and coastal zone, and particularly the sandbars and islands, are of huge importance for breeding terns and gulls. On one island alone (Ile aux Oiseaux) a total of 40,000 nests of four species was recorded in 1991, and the largest breeding colony of Sterna maxima in the world (estimated at 40,000 nests in 1999) also occurs here. This makes Ile aux Oiseaux and the Delta du Saloum IBA the most important breeding site for gulls and terns on the coast of Senegal. The highest counts of wintering Larus audouinii in Senegal are recorded from Palmarin, within the site, where it is frequent to abundant, with a maximum single count of 522 birds in January 1997. Occasional small numbers of Phoenicopterus minor occur on the site and there are also sporadic breeding records for the species, but no recorded numbers and most authors agree that the only known West African breeding site is in Mauritania. In addition, five species of the Guinea–Congo Forests (A05) biome have been recorded at this site (see Table 2). These include Anthreptes gabonicus, currently only known from this IBA in Senegal; however, it may be expected to occur on Parc National de Basse Casamance (site SN014), as its habitat does.

The central intertidal zone of river channels, islands, creeks, mangroves and exposed sand and mud is particularly important as a feeding area (especially at low tide) and roosting area for waders and herons. This is the most important site for wintering Casmerodius albus in West Africa, probably the most important site in Senegal for Ardea goliath and the only known breeding site in Senegal for A. cinerea. In addition to its importance for the species listed in the Box, there are significant numbers, close to IBA thresholds, of many other waders, including Haematopus ostralegus, Himantopus himantopus, Burhinus senegalensis and Numenius phaeopus. The zone furthest inland becomes very dry during the dry season, the saltmarshes and salines are of particular importance for Phoenicopterus ruber (including occasional breeding records) and 100 nests of Larus genei were recorded in the ‘Salines de Kaolack’ in 1998. The largest concentrations of wintering Pandion haliaetus recorded in Senegal occur in the site. The Delta du Saloum is very closely linked to sites SN011 and SN012 to the north. There is considerable interchange and movement of birds between these three sites, all of which are of very high importance for wintering, passage and resident waterbirds and seabirds.

Non-bird biodiversity: The marine fauna includes breeding turtles: Dermochelys coriacea (EN), Chelonia mydas (EN), Caretta caretta (EN), Eretmochelys imbricata (CR) and Lepidochelys olivacea (EN). The site is also an important fish spawning and feeding ground (113 species recorded). Coastal and marine mammal species include Trichechus senegalensis (VU), Sousa teuszii (DD) and Stenella spp. The dry forest (Fathala and other islands) contains threatened mammal species typical of the Sudan–Sahel interface, including Piliocolobus badius temmincki (LR/nt), Cephalophus rufilatus (LR/cd) and Redunca redunca (LR/cd).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Delta du Saloum. Downloaded from on 07/06/2023.