Site description (2001 baseline)
The Gebel Elba area encompasses a cluster of coastal mountains overlooking the Red Sea, immediately to the north of the political border with Sudan. Most prominent are Gebel Elba (1,435 m), Gebel Shellal (1,409 m), Gebel Shendib (1,911 m) and Gebel Shendodai (1,526 m). These are the southernmost of the Egypt’s Red Sea mountains. A 25 km wide coastal plain separates the mountains from the Red Sea coast to the north and east. To the west lie the bleak sand-plains and hills of the Eastern Desert. A network of numerous small, deeply cut wadis drain the mountains into several major wadis, which flow towards the Red Sea or the Nile valley. The most important of these are Wadi Akwamtra, Wadi Aideib and Wadi Serimtai.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Because of the abundance of moisture, altitudinal effects and geographic position, Gebel Elba supports a rich biodiversity unparalleled in any other, similar, desert habitat in Egypt. Many Afrotropical elements have their northern limits at Elba, including several avian species. Some 41 bird species are known or thought to breed in the immediate vicinity of Elba. Of the Sahara–Sindian biome-restricted species, Turdoides fulvus is not represented in any other IBA in Egypt. Terathopius ecaudatus, Oena capensis, Caprimulgus nubicus, Eremopterix nigriceps, Nectarinia habessinica, Sylvia leucomelaena, Rhodophoneus cruentus, Lonchura cantans and Passer luteus are Afrotropical species that, in Egypt, are largely confined to Gebel Elba. Other species, such as Struthio camelus and Torgos tracheliotos, which have disappeared from most of their former North African/Middle Eastern range, can still be found in the Gebel Elba area, although they have both been greatly reduced in number during the past decade. The area also holds breeding populations of several birds of prey that are rare, or have sharply declined, throughout the remainder of their range in Egypt: Gypaetus barbatus, Neophron percnopterus, Aquila verreauxii and Hieraaetus fasciatus.
Non-bird biodiversity: Flora: Biscutella elbensis is endemic to Gebel Elba (Boulos 1995). Several other plant species, rare elsewhere in Egypt, are also found here. Reptiles: Ophisops elbaensis was thought to be endemic, but has been found recently in south-west Arabia. Mammals: Vulpes rueppelli (DD) is fairly common. If Panthera pardus still exists, it is very rare. Gazella dorcas (VU) and Capra nubiana (EN) are declining, but are still found in small numbers, while Ammotragus lervia (VU) is, apparently, still present in very small numbers.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Gebel Elba. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/site/factsheet/gebel-elba-iba-egypt on 29/11/2023.