Electrocution and Collusion Problems in Eastern and Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia


The Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway is the second most important flyway for Migratory Soaring Birds (MSBs) which include Falcons, Eagles, Buzzards, Harriers, Vultures, Hawks, Storks, Kites, Ibis, Osprey and Pelicans. Over 2 million birds of 37 species, including 5 globally threatened species (Egyptian Vulture, Saker Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Greater Spotted Eagle and Northern Bald Ibis), using this corridor to move between their breeding grounds in Europe and Asia and their wintering grounds in Africa. Among the 37 species 35 of the species including the 5 globally threatened species visit Ethiopia once or twice a year.

Along the flyway, these important birds however, facing many and lethal risks emanating from human activities such as agriculture, energy, hunting, tourism and waste management sectors. These sectors pose risks at different scales from country to country along the flyway. Energy and Agriculture sectors are of particular importance with respect to conservation of MSBs in Ethiopia.

A joint rapid assessment of powerlines by Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS), Ethiopia Electric Utility (EEU)and Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) was caried out in parts of the Rift Valley of Ethiopia from 22 to 31 March 2021. Infrastructure constituting one wind farm, a power sub-station and powerlines in 11 sites.  Sites visited were: Logia, Gewane, Adayitu, Amibara, Metehara, Adama II wind farm, Adama dump site, Koka Bridge, Ziway/Batu, Mile and Meki. A 33KV- line in Logia close to an abandoned dumpsite near Awash River which is a resting and feeding site for many birds.  15 KV transmission line fitted on hooked pin insulator at Metehara in a site close to Elfora meat processing industry and Beseka Lake, similar 15KV electric power line passing along Koka bridge located close to Koka Lake and the nearby fishing landing and filleting site as well as 15KV power line at Ziway/Batu found at about 1km from Lake Ziway, on and under breeding and nesting acacia tree crossed by a similar power line.

During the assessment, Egyptian Vulture, Marabou Stork, White Stork, Black Kite, Fish Eagle, Hamerkop, Common Pigeon, Hooded Vulture, Sacred Ibis and other unidentified birds were found dead because of electrocution and collision. Electrocution of birds were seen in Logia, Gewane, Adayitu, Amibara, Metehara, Adama, Koka bridge and Ziway/Batu towns. The highest number of dead birds (42 birds) counted due to the impact of bird un-friendly powerlines Metehara, Logia (5 birds), Koka bridge area (18 birds) and Ziway/Batu (6 birds). Marabou Stork was the most electrocuted bird species. MSBs killed include Egyptian Vulture (Endangered), White Stork and Black Kite.

The joint rapid assessment conducted in Ethiopia, provides an idea of the proliferation of dangerous power infrastructure in the country and the effect they have on birds. Energy infrastructure continues to kill MSBs and other birds in unknown volumes.  Previous field visits organized by EWNHS and conducted in 2019 at Logia and Metehara also revealed killing of large number of birds by powerlines. The impact of energy infrastructure on birds is more pronounced in areas where bird activity was the highest: breeding, feeding and roosting sites. To address the negative impacts, we recommend coordination of the energy sector, municipalities and entities working on conservation of biodiversity.

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