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

Djoudj Bird Sanctuary - Senegal

Map showing the location of the Djoudj national bird sanctuary world heritage site, Senegal

In Danger 2000 to 2008 

Website Category:  African wetlands

Area: 160 km2

Inscribed: 1981.


Criteria: (vii) aesthetic (x) biodiversity

Values: The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary is a wetland in the Senegal river delta, which serves as an over-wintering site for vast numbers of waterfowl and other Palaearctic migrant birds. Historically, the site was subject to alternating cycles of seasonal flooding with fresh water from the Senegal River, followed by an influx of salt water from the ocean during the dry season. This hydrological regime has been altered with the construction of dams both upstream and downstream of the sanctuary. A seasonal freshwater flood is now provided by release of impounded water, but the saltwater flooding no longer occurs. Waterbird counts in 1998 (after the dams were completed) revealed half a million individuals of just the top four species - garganey (222,000), pintail (120,000), ruff (120,000) and white-faced tree duck (36,000).


Slideshow of the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary/world heritage site.

A comprehensive review of the world heritage values of the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary is provided below, together with details of the area's conservation status and the threats it faces.

REVIEW OF WORLD HERITAGE VALUES: According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2014), the specific attributes which qualify the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary for world heritage status can be summarised as follows:

A major breeding colony of pelicans is found in the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary world heritage siteMajor sanctuary for Palaearctic migratory birds. The park was established primarily as an important bird area, serving as an over-wintering ground for 1.5 million waterfowl. It is one of the main sanctuaries in West Africa for Palaearctic migrant birds. Thousands of birds also nest here regularly including white pelican (5000), white-faced whistling duck (8470), fulvous whistling duck (820), spur-winged goose (640), purple heron, night heron, various egrets, spoonbill, African darter, great cormorant and the rare great bustard.



Seasonally flooded areas such as this are one of the most important habitats for over-wintering waterfowl in the Djoudj National Bird SanctuaryDiversity of habitats.  Located in the Senegal River delta, the Djoudj encompasses a wide variety of wetland and dry Sahelian habitats covering an area of approximately 160 km2. Wetland habitats vary seasonally and include a large lake, river channels, seasonal pools, dense stands of Typha reeds, lily-filled shallows and flood-plains. Adjacent forests and grasslands support species typical of the dry Sahelian zone of Africa, with savanna vegetation dominated by thorny bushes, acacias, tamarisk and Balanites aegvptiaca



CONSERVATION STATUS AND PROSPECTS: The nature of the Djoudj wetlands has changed fundamentally since the completion of the Diama Dam across the Senegal River in 1986.  Located about 20 km downstream of Djoudj, this dam creates a large freshwater reservoir, while preventing penetration of salt water into the delta during the dry season.  The wetlands of the Djoudj world heritage site would have been flooded by this reservoir were they not protected by a system of high embankments and sluice gates.  The Outstanding Universal Values of the site are now maintained artificially with seasonal flooding, mimicking the natural system, managed by opening the sluice gates for 3 months (during the July-September rains), then allowing the system to gradually dry out during the rest of the year.  As long as this artificial management system is maintained the world heritage values can be sustained, although the biodiversity and wetland ecology has been partially degraded. The prospect of further dams on the Senegal River and use of water upstream is a cause for concern, as this may deprive Djoudj of its seasonal replenishment.  It can be anticipated that the release of freshwater into the Djoudj wetlands will be increasingly in direct competition with alternative demands for water for irrigation, rice production and urban use, especially during periodic droughts. 

Sluice gates in the embankments around Djoudj allow artificial management of flooding regimes so that the core values of the world heritage site as a sanctuary for Palaearctic migratory waterfowl can be sustainedMANAGEMENT EFFECTIVENESS: The site has undergone a serious crisis as a result of changing hydrology associated with the Diama Dam which led to its inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger (2000-06).  Although Djoudj is no longer on the Danger list, site protection and management still needs to be significantly improved to ensure preservation of the site’s important ecological values.   A key priority is the removal of invasive plant species, while sedimentation and erosion require close monitoring. Human activities within the site (e.g. livestock grazing and poaching) and outside (use of chemical fertilizers) are significant further threats that require attention. Management programmes need to address deficiencies in staff training, defining the extent of the buffer zone, precise monitoring of species, financing of non-staff costs, use of monitoring and research work in management, and trans-border cooperation with the Mauritanian authorities who manage adjacent areas of the delta.

REVIEW OF CONSERVATION ISSUES AND THREATS: The following issues represent specific threats to the ecology, conservation and values of the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary world heritage site.

Siltation of wetlands and water bodies.  Several of the site’s most important water bodies – the Great Lake, Manatee Lake, Thiegue wetland and Crocodile Canal – have suffered significant siltation in recent years due to the hydrological changes associated with the Diama Dam and the elimination of occasional events to ‘flush out’ excess sediment.  There is a significant risk that these areas will undergo progressive change, altering their ecology and their ability to sustain present populations of migratory waterbirds.

Local communities make use of various resources from within the park, and this can help in the control of invasive vegetation such as Typha reeds which otherwise threaten the ecology of the wetland Competition for water.  With ever-increasing demands for water from the Senegal River from all the riparian states (Mali, Mauritania and Senegal) there is likely to be growing pressure to reduce the amount that is released into the Djoudj.  This will inevitably have knock-on effects for the ecology of the natural wetlands and reduce their ability to sustain waterfowl populations.

Ineffective water management.  Related to the problems of siltation and competition for water, it is important to recognise that the artificial management of ‘flooding cycles’ is dependent on the proper management and maintenance of related infrastructure including the canals, embankments and sluice gates that are key to the survival of the Djoudj wetland ecosystem.  If this management becomes lax and ineffective the entire wetland is at risk.

Invasive Alien Species.  The hydrological changes brought about by the construction of Diama Dam and related embankments and sluices favoured the proliferation of invasive species, including most notably the reed, Typha australis and Tamarix senegalensis. Measures have been taken to control these invasive species but these and other exotic species remain a key threat to the ecology and values of the site.

Large numbers of domestic animals are brought into the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary by local and transhumance communities, threatening the waterfowl habitatGrazing of domesticated animals.  The grazing of domestic animals inside the site is one of the major pressures (30,890 cattle, sheep and goats were counted in 2010). An increase in the local population living near the site and persistence of traditional transhumance lifestyles means that herds of domestic animals are constantly brought into the sanctuary where they destroy the vegetation and disturb waterfowl feeding areas.

Subsistence hunting.  Although illegal hunting and fishing are practiced within the site these activities do not seem to constitute very significant threats

Water Pollution.  Use of chemicals in rice fields and market gardens close to the park is a source of water pollution. This does not seem to have become a major threat, but vigilance is required to monitor possible impacts. 

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Links to other places in the African Wetlands category:  Okavango Delta  l  iSimangaliso  l  Banc d'Arguin  l  Lake Ichkeul

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

The Djoudj national bird sanctuary world heritage site covers an extensive area of floodplain of the Senegal river estuary, and is used as an overwintering site by Palaearctic migrant waterfowl Reedbeds are extensive in the Djoudj national bird sanctuary world heritage site, SenegalWhite-faced tree ducks are one of the top four species of Palaearctic migrant birds that overwinter at the Djoudj national bird sanctuary world heritage site.  Together with ruff, garganey and pintail, more than half a million birds of these four species overwinter here. A breeding colony of pelicans can easily be visited by tourists as part of a short cruise through the wetlands and waterways of the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary world heritage site in Senegal




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