Bird Sanctuary Djoudj (World Heritage)

The bird sanctuary in the Senegal estuary is the third largest bird reserve in the world. According to remzfamily, it is the habitat for over 400 bird species and a breeding colony of 10,000 great white pelicans. In winter, around 3 million migratory birds such as ducks and waders from Europe and Siberia also head for the area. Crocodiles, turtles, warthogs, pythons, boas, gazelles and jackals can also be found in the river arms and lagoons.

Djoudj bird sanctuary: facts

Official title: Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary
Natural monument 160 km² large bird sanctuary, national park since 1971 and internationally significant wetland since 1980 according to the Ramsar Convention
continent Africa
country Senegal
location Senegal river delta, Région du Fleuve, north of Ross-Bethio and Saint-Louis
appointment 1981
meaning internationally significant habitat for waterbirds and waders on the dwindling rivers Djoudj and Grand Lac and one of the most important wintering areas for European and North Asian ducks and waders
Flora and fauna 17 plant communities with water ferns, water lilies, cattails, tamarisks and acacias; Passage and resting area for 3 million migratory birds such as pike, spoon and teal as well as black-tailed godwit; Habitat for 1.5 million water birds and waders; A breeding colony of 5000 great white pelicans and 4500 widow whistle geese, ruff as winter guests, as well as spoonbills, flamingos, mangrove and black herons, wood sandpipers and crowned cranes

In the realm of feathered friends: Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary

In the Senegal delta, wing beats set the pace. The best way to explore the flora and fauna of this labyrinthine wonderland of lakes, shrinking rivers, temporary canals, flood plains and arid areas is by boat and with a local guide. In the first hours of the morning it is still calm on the waterways of the nature reserve not far from the Sahel. Only the chugging of the outboard motor and the rhythmic clapping of the waves against the ship’s side, somewhat muffled by mats made of water roses and water salad, break the silence.

The boat glides past mangroves that stretch out of the water on their stilt roots. After the rainy season, the ocher-colored landscape turned into a “green wool carpet”. The rivers carry enough water again to be able to navigate them unhindered. This used to be the time when merchants could trade along the Senegal River; until the end of the 19th century it was a very profitable business. Before the railway line and paved highways were built, the Senegal River was the only connection between the Europeans trading upstream and the Moors from the north. The colorfully feathered birds to the left and right of the waterway have always been an important commodity, especially when they developed at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

After the construction of dams at Diama and Manantali, through which the penetration of seawater was to be prevented and the agricultural areas for Senegal’s own consumption of rice and vegetables to be increased, increasingly sensitive disturbances of the ecosystem occurred.

As the night disappears, the embankments emerge a little more clearly from the twilight. And yet the observer doubts: Is this just mangrove branches, a sebapython or maybe a Nile monitor? Is there a gnarled tree trunk or even a crocodile? Mostly the eye deceives the expectant viewer. And then all of a sudden, shortly after the sun has risen above the horizon, the surroundings seem to explode with a powerful voice. Countless birds rise from their nesting sites and join in a deafening concert. Before you saw them only sporadically, now you can suddenly see flocks of pintail and teal ducks, herons, cormorants, especially great white pelicans. A cloud of birds seems to be darkening the sky and a dissonant chirping can be heard. It just seems like they all made a date to welcome the visitors together. There is a pungent smell of excrement in the air. A gray-black, barely noticeable swarm of young pelicans rises on small river islands. Some chicks clumsily venture to the edge of the water where their parents are gathering to go fishing together. Standing a little apart in the shallow water, purple herons wait for their prey. A group of pitch-black cormorants jerks from right to left as if on command. Standing a little apart in the shallow water, purple herons wait for their prey. A group of pitch-black cormorants jerks from right to left as if on command. Standing a little apart in the shallow water, purple herons wait for their prey. A group of pitch-black cormorants jerks from right to left as if on command.

Every bend in the river offers new impressions. Slowly the eyes and ears get used to the »orchestral dance of nature«. The attentive observer discovers small, colorful, iridescent birds, hidden discreetly in the bushes or diving into the water at lightning speed. You involuntarily look for those you still know from home. The shore region is also in motion. Still half covered by acacia bushes, a family of warthogs trots to the bank; A little further on, a startled gazelle lifts its head. The yellow crown of the crowned crane falls through the light foliage. In the past you could still see hippos, giraffes, even elephants, but due to intensive hunting and increasing agricultural use to the left and right of Senegal, they have all disappeared. From 1984 dam construction threatened the water balance of the delta and in 2000 an invasive swimming fern got out of control. Therefore, the bird sanctuary was on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger from 1984 to 1988 and from 2000 to 2006. But what will the future bring? More years of drought, the spread of the desert in the Sahel or even the dwindling of vital fresh water in the Senegalese delta?

Bird Sanctuary Djoudj (World Heritage)