Birdwatching in Eritrea
Just 60 years ago, Eritrea could boast all the large game species of the East African savannah. Unfortunately, farming methods, war, population increase and deforestation have all taken a toll on the large mammal species in Eritrea. Today only a few of these species remain:
Between 50 and 100 Elephants survive in the southern part of Gash Barka. Professor Jiskel Shoshany completed several detailed studies on this relic population.
The crtically endangered Abyssinian Wild Ass survives in small numbers (less than 500) on the coastal plains, and is often sighted in the area of Gel'alo. Many mistaken sightings are made of hybrid or even domestic donkeys, which look very similar, and have the same distinctive markings on the back legs and body.
Reports of Lion come sporadically from Sandachina in south western Gash Barka, including reports by local villagers of males roaring, but no confirmed sightings have been made for 20 years.
Leopard are widespread, but local and largely nocturnal. They are rarely seen, but often reported by villagers who lose livestock to leopards. The more common Caracoul is probably responsible for many of these reported leopard killings. 'Leopard' in Tigrinya is 'nebri', which is often mistranslated as 'tiger'!
Common Genet, African Civet and Caracoul are found in several parts of Eritrea. Serval can be found in Gash Barka.
Spotted Hyena are widespread and fairly common. They are often heard and sighted around towns at night near rubbish dumps. Striped Hyena are found in Gash Barka.
Greater Kudu are present in Filfil. See photograph above.
Soemmering's Gazelle and Dorca's Gazelle are common on the coastal plains and in Gash Barka. Klipspringer and Salt's Dik Dik are locally common in several parts of Eritrea including Gash Barka.
Small numbers of Warthog are found in the highlands. They are more common in Gash Barka, especially along the Barka river.
Hamadryas/Sacred Baboon are common in mountainous areas of the highlands, where they need cliffs to sleep. They can also be found down to sea level on the eastern escarpment, provided suitable habitat is available. A good place to see them is near Asmara rubbish dump early morning. In Gash Barka, Olive Baboon usually replace the Hamadryas Baboon. Grivet / Vervet Monkey are common throughout Eritrea.
Black-backed Jackal are fairly common all over the country, even in areas with high human populations. They are known in Tigrinya as 'weharya' (often mistranslated as 'fox'). Golden Jackal ('tokla' in Tigrinya) are also widespread, but less common.
Other species of smaller mammals that are present include: Sand Fox and Ruppell's Fox, Side-striped and Western Ground Squirrel, Scrub Hare, Slender Mongoose, Rock Hyrax, Crested Porcupine, Honey Badger (Ratel) and Aardvark.
In Gash Barka, the tiny, but deadly Saw-scaled Viper is common. Puff Adder and Red Spitting Cobra are more widespread, even in the highlands. 3 species of Python can be found, for example in Elabered. Lizard species include: Eritrean Agama, Chameleon, Red-headed Rock Agama, Johnston's Long-tailed Lizard, Yellow-throated Plated Lizard.
The Eritrean Dahlak Islands have a very low human population, and the fishing industry is very small-scale. The islands remain one of the most pristine marine ecosystems in this part of the world.
Dolphin: At least 4 species are present in coastal waters.
Dugong: In the southern Dahlak Islands and the Gulf of Zula.
Humpback Whale: passes through the Dahlak Islands at certain times of the year.
Other large marine species include Whale Shark and Manta Ray.
Turtles include Hawksbill Turtle, Green Turtle and Leatherback Turtle, all of which breed on the Dahlaks.
Coral and reef fish in the Dahlak islands are beautiful. Little coral bleaching was evident in 2008. The reef ecosystem seemed to be doing well, with large numbers of Angelfish (Emperor Anglefish included), Moorish Idols, Scorpionfish, Batfish, plenty of Parrotfish, various large Grouper and Rock Cod species, and a lot of rays. Sharks are apparently common here, as are Marlin/Swordfish.
Thanks to Dawit Berhane who contributed the information for this page.
|Bird Checklist for Eritrea|
|Travel & Accommodation|
|Adi Keih Birdwatching|
|Dahlak Islands Birdwatching|
|Elabered / Keren Birdwatching|
|Gash Barka Birdwatching|
|Children and Schools|