Camels crossing the desert near Africa's highest sand dunes at Temet, Air and Tenere Natural Reserves world heritage site, NigerElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweIce cliffs near the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro National Park world heritage site, TanzaniaBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Lake Ichkeul - Tunisia

Map showing the location of Ichkeul National Park world heritage site in TunisiaIn Danger from 1996 to 2006

Area: 126 km2

Inscribed: 1980.

Criteria: (x) biodiversity

Values: Lake Ichkeul is a shallow lake with a fluctuating water level and salinity that serves as an important over-wintering site for Palaearctic migrant waterfowl. In the years preceding its listing as a world heritage site, waterfowl numbers averaged about 250,000, but this has fallen dramatically as a result of the construction of dams on three of the main rivers feeding into the lake during the 80s. Peak-season waterfowl counts reached an all-time low of around 11,000 in 2003, increasing to 35,000 in 2005 after two years of good rainfall. The vast majority of these birds (84%) belong to just three species: wigeon, pochard and coot.

 

Slideshow of the Ichkeul National Park/world heritage site.

 

Impressions (based on a visit in May 2006): This site, more than any other in Africa, epitomises the conflict between conservation and economic development.  On the one hand, the government is committed to the conservation of the world heritage site's, ‘Outstanding Universal Values', especially its role as an over-wintering site for waterfowl.  On the other hand, the fresh water which creates the waterfowl habitat is an enormously valuable resource in a dry part of the continent.  So it is hardly surprising that the catchment areas have been dammed and massive pipes installed to carry water from the dams to nearby urban areas, while water is also used for the irrigation of potato, wheat and other crops. This diversion of water denies the lake its life-blood, and the quality of the habitat for waterfowl and other kinds of wildlife has been seriously affected. Efforts are being made to release critical quantities of water into the lake to maintain its freshwater habitats, but the best that can be hoped is for a new equilibrium to be established with (much lower) waterfowl numbers reflecting the quality and quantity of habitat that can be sustained under the new hydrological conditions.  This inevitably raises questions over the degree to which the original values under which a site is included on the world heritage list can be compromised before the listing loses its validity.

 

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Links:  Google Earth | UNEP-WCMC Site Description | Official UNESCO Site Details | Birdlife IBA     

 

View across the wetlands and lake towards Djebel Ichkeul in the Lake Ichkeul National Park world heritage site, TunisiaFishing boats on the lake shoreline at Ichkeul National Park world heritage site, Tunisia Sluice and fish traps along the lake's principal outlet channel, the Oued Tindja, in the Ichkeul National Park world heritage site, TunisiaLake Ichkeul is the most important wildfowl refuge in North Africa and a major overwintering site for Palaearctic waterfowl especially coot, wigeon, pochard, shoveller and greylag geese.  Here coot feed on the extensive Potomogeton pondweed beds which are a key habitat within the Ichkeul National Park world heritage site, Tunisia 

 

 

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