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Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

Saint Louis, Senegal

The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary lies on the southeast bank of the Senegal River in Senegal, in northern Biffeche, north east of St-Louis. It provides a range of wetland habitats which prove very popular with migrating birds, many of which have just crossed the Sahara.

It provides a range of wetland habitats which prove very popular with migrating birds, many of which have just crossed the Sahara. Of almost 400 species of birds, the most visible are pelicans and flamingos. Less conspicuous are the aquatic warblers migrating here from Europe; for these, the park is the single most important wintering site yet discovered.

A wide range of wildlife also inhabits the park, which is designated a World Heritage Site. The site was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2000 due to the introduction of the invasive giant salvinia plant, which threatens to choke out the park's native vegetation. However it was removed from the list in 2006.

The Sanctuary is a small part of the wide delta floodplain of the Senegal river, the second largest river in west Africa, which marks the line between the Sahara and the Sahel and forms an important ecological barrier on the desert edge. A third of the wetland is in Mauritania (Diawling National Park). The Sanctuary is in the basin of the brackish Djoudj bayou (distributary or marigot) between the main river channel to the north and the Gorom bayou to the south.

The Sanctuary is classified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area for breeding, staging and wintering waterbirds. For millions of Palaearctic ducks and other aquatic birds, including aquatic warblers, this wetland, like the Niger swamps in Mali and Lake Chad, is one of the great staging and wintering areas for birds that have just crossed the Sahara. From September to April, some three million migrants pass through, joining a dense population of resident breeding birds. Between 450-550,000 Anatidae, 250,000 Limicolae, 20,000 greater flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber, 3,000-12,000 lesser flamingos Phoeniconaias minor and 2,500 European spoonbills Platalea leucorodia, owe their winter survival to the quality of the environment of the Senegal river delta (Triplet et al., 2000). About 10,000 white pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus nest here regularly, as well as pink-backed pelican Pelecanus rufescens.

14,000 tourists (approx.) visit the Sanctuary each year. The main camp is the Djoudj Hostellerie with 80 rooms. A new 14-bed camp is the result of a village initiative. These are closed during the rainy season but there are hotels in St Louis nearby.

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