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Wadi el Rayan Gateway to the Western Desert

Presenting this volume The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area represents an ecological complex combining man-made lakes with an extremely arid natural background and landforms showing the interactions of environment and history. The area is a subdepression forming part of the Fayoum depression, one of the largest in Egypt’s Western Desert. The ancient history of the depression included phases of connection with the River Nile and a larger lake (Moeris). At present the Bahr Yousef channel connects the main Fayoum depression with the Nile and provides irrigation water for its farmland. The Wadi el Rayan part of the depression was at one time considered for a flood storage project, but this scheme was shelved when the Aswan High Dam was built. Wadi el Rayan was later developed to receive excess drainage water from the Fayoum depression, leading to the formation of its two man-made lakes. The Wadi el Rayan area now combines the original desert habitat and a number of freshwater springs (micro-oases) with the man-made wetland habitat of the newly formed lakes. These lakes have attracted a variety of birds and other wildlife, and allowed a range of resource uses, including fish farming, agriculture and recreation. The inventories and ecological surveys of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area summarized in the present volume, as well as the management schemes implemented in this important nature reserve, are the outcome of a collaborative endeavour between Italy’s General Directorate for Development Cooperation and the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. We are grateful for the technical and financial support provided by the Italian Government and appreciate the scientific and other expertise contributed by IUCN - The World Conservation Union. Mamdouh Riad Minister of State for Environmental Affairs

It is perfectly logical that Italy and Egypt should work together to preserve the environment. Our two countries cooperate in a wide range of fields - politics, economics, culture and science - and it is only natural for them to join forces to protect the environment, a resource common to all countries and all peoples. Only recently have the scientific community and general public of our two countries become aware of the growing threats to the environment from a combination of population growth and accelerated economic development. And it is thus only recently that our countries have begun to give a certain political priority and devote part of their resources to protecting their own environments, seeing them as part of the common environment of all humankind. We have come to understand that, even if the environment does not have a price, it has a value - and a major one - and that it would be a mistake to see environmental protection as a constraint on economic growth, instead of one of the major factors in the development of our nations. The Wadi el Rayan project will not only serve to protect the two beautiful lakes, the desert, the springs, the geological remains and the archaeological sites of the area, but will also go a long way towards raising environmental awareness among the general population, and especially the young. I therefore want to express sincere praise and gratitude to all the experts, administrators, rangers and other workers, both Egyptian and Italian, who have implemented the first phase of the project. They can be proud of what they have achieved, and I am sure that, under the wise leadership of the Minister of State for Environmental Affairs of the Republic of Egypt, their work will provide the foundation for further achievements in environmental protection and management. Italy stands ready to continue its cooperation with Egypt in this endeavour. Francesco Aloisi de Larderel Former Ambassador of Italy to Egypt


The Arab Republic of Egypt has given high priority to nature conservation. Egypt’s wealth of habitats and species contribute towards the health, well being and prosperity of its people. The country possesses habitats such as wetlands of international importance and globally threatened species of plants and animals. In light of this, Egypt has adopted policies, measures and programs to preserve its unique natural heritage and fulfill obligations under international agreements, such as the Biodiversity Convention. Protected Areas are perhaps Egypt’s most effective tools to preserve nature. To date 21 protected areas have been established around the country and a further 19 sites are proposed for protection. The effective management of these areas has been the primary focus of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency’s (EEAA) conservation efforts over the past ten years. Correspondingly, projects are underway to develop the management and infrastructure of the country’s most valuable Protected Areas. These initiatives seek to ensure the sustainable utilization of these sites and their resources through a variety of means, such as through the development of ecotourism, partnerships with local communities and generation of public awareness. A project was launched in 1999 in cooperation with the Italian General Directorate for Development Cooperation for support of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area in the Fayoum Governorate. The EEAA designated Wadi el Rayan as a priority site given its biological and geological importance, and growing utilization as a location for recreation, education and tourism. Furthermore, there was concern that human activities were occurring at Wadi el Rayan in an unsustainable manner threatening the viability of the protected area. The project has been striving to build the management and infrastructure of the park within the framework of sustainable development. It is planned that cooperation will continue during a second phase scheduled to begin the second half of 2002. Wadi el Rayan serves as a model for protected area development. While many difficulties and challenges have been encountered, significant progress has been made transforming the area into one of Egypt’s premier protectorates. Close cooperation and exchange of expertise with other countries and international organizations has been a major factor contributing to the success of this project. We are grateful to the Italian Government for their assistance and IUCN for their input, which have both shown great dedication to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in Wadi el Rayan. This publication documents the knowledge and experience gained during the past three years, and our plans for the future. It is hoped through this book that there will be greater support of our efforts to ensure the lasting conservation of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area for the benefit of Fayoum, Egypt and the world. Dr. Ibrahim Abdel Gelil Chief Executive Officer Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA)

The global environment crisis The notion of sustainable development – development based on the three pillars of economic efficiency, social equity, and environmental sustainability – was disseminated throughout the world media in connection with the Earth Summit in Rio. The concept of sustainable development is so attractive in theory, and so simple to grasp, that it is difficult to accept that, throughout the globe, we are facing an ever-worsening environmental crisis. Sustainable development includes economic development, and supports the basic market mechanisms for the allocation of resources and the defence of comparative advantage. It simply points out that both poor and marginalized peoples will eventually undermine the strength of economies, as will the depletion or misuse of environmental resources. For development to be lasting – sustainable – economic activity must be embedded in a wider framework of social equity and environmental care. A great deal of research is now available to demonstrate that sustainable development is not simply an utopian theory, but a sound basis for development planning. Even more evidence is available of the consequences of ignoring social and environmental factors in the headlong rush towards economic benefit and consumer voracity. We know now that the simple economic formulas of the “Washington consensus”, although they led to impressive economic growth, seem at the same time to have also deepened the gap between rich and poor countries, and between the rich and poor within countries. The social and political backlash is everywhere in evidence. Economic growth that ignores or worsens social exclusion is simply not acceptable. Nor is growth that is based on the depletion of a finite natural resources base. If there is to be a hope for sustainable development, it derives from the rapid change in governance that is being observed worldwide. The spread of democratic institutions, of transparency and accountability in governance, and the successful bid by people for a greater say in the decisions that affect their development is beginning to change the way societies set their agendas and priorities. This change is occurring at an accelerating pace. If these changes are seen at the international level – for example in the new partnerships between UN agencies, businesses and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – it is also evident at the national and local levels almost everywhere. Whereas changes influencing the way people live, work and exchange relationships once were passed down from one generation to another, they are today intra-generational. Whereas technological developments once appeared to be a tool of the privileged to support reckless economic growth, and to gain additional resources to support the latter, the development of technologies has shown limitations in this direction, and it must be better used as a tool in the service of freedom and human rights, and as a weapon to attack privilege and abuse of power.

International aid International Aid is increasingly relevant to sustainable development; it may well become essential to it. The many changes over the last twenty years have also affected the way in which development assistance is conceived, planned and delivered, sometimes for the better, but sometimes also for the worse. Since most international aid derives, directly or indirectly, from government sources, the aid community has had to struggle to take on board the governance revolution and to adapt to its implications. This has led to a diversification of aid delivery vehicles, with bilateral and multilateral donors increasingly having to work with civil society groups and with private business concerns. It has led them to explore the notion of partnerships, with each partner bringing an essential element to the mix required for sustainable development results. And it has led to a far greater emphasis on building capacity among local partners – a key element in the sustainability of development interventions. Where successful, the general decline in aid budgets has been offset by the more effective delivery of aid results. Italy and IUCN: nature conservation, economic activities, research and leisure in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area The conservation project described in this volume is an example of international development assistance in the domain of sustainable development; it bears witness to an attempt to couple the long-term needs of nature conservation with the short-term imperatives of economic activities in an arid area which is also supporting scientific research and tourist practices; an area which ultimately delivers greater quality of life to the people who live or travel there. The project was initially conceived as a development assistance investment within the broader framework of an environmental capacity development in Egypt. The programme was approved and funded at a time when aid budgets were years into a steady and rapid decline, and when the entire international development assistance sector was in crisis. Nevertheless, for many international priorities, development assistance support appeared to be the only available alternative for meeting pressing environmental priorities not addressed by recipient governments, either because of financial or capacity limitations, or because priority was given to other areas. Though sown on apparently barren ground, the seeds of this project have thrived and borne fruit in a way that few would have expected, yielding results which have proved an inspiration in other areas and which have had a positive policy impact. What accounts for this success? Perhaps the key factor has been the quality of the people – both national and international – who have given their time and creativity to the project. The project has proved to be a field for creativity, and has proved to be a positive learning experience for all of those involved.

IUCN - The World Conservation Union - had the opportunity to apply its knowledge and experience to a specific, localized set of issues, enriching itself further through its interactions with the scientific community in Egypt. These institutions, in turn, gained access to IUCN’s extensive nature conservation and research capacities; even the Donor (though the least important element in this list) gained a more open forum to consider its assistance policies in a priority area such as the Mediterranean region, and to consolidate its support to international institutions involved in development assistance and environmental conservation. The project has confirmed the indication by which nature conservation is essential to people’s well-being and economic growth; the same project also confirmed our initial assumptions - that IUCN remains on the cutting edge of modern thinking on how to conserve the earth’s resources and – through its NGO and scientific networks – promotes a people-centred approach to the preservation of environmental and cultural values. It also demonstrates that bilateral development assistance can yield excellent benefits to beneficiaries when its expertise is backed by appropriate scientific support and institutional architectures, besides technical experience, delivered through a sound supporting framework. Moreover, the project has demonstrated that a good project is more than a solely technical transfer exercise: it is per se a capacity building process, it is a platform for targeted interventions, for research, for communications and for development education. It is a creative and iterative process. And it is an opportunity for motivated and qualified people to work as a team. This project was the first of a series of joint ventures between the Italian Development Assistance Programme and IUCN, and it was made possible by the Technical Cooperation Agreement signed in 1995 (Rome & Gland) between the two Institutions. Domenico Bruzzone General Directorate for Development Cooperation, Italy Mark Halle former IUCN Director for Global Policy and Memberships Francis Parakatil IUCN Regional Programme Coordinator, West/Central Asia & North Africa

Production team Concept development and editor: G.H. Mattravers Messana Scientific director: Prof. Mohamed Kassas Assistant editor and translations: Leslie Wearne Principal photography: Mimmo Santoro Specialised wildlife photography: Rafik Khalil & Dina Aly (RK & DA) Cartography: Ilaria Di Silvestre (IDS), Mohamed Reda Rahman (MRR), Mahamud Abbas Saleh (MAS), Nikolai Sindorf (NS), Cosimo Tendi (CT) Design assistant: Gloria Dagnini / Comeca projects Proof reading: Daphne Mattravers Layout and graphics: Giuseppe Mazziotta & Maurizio Romeo Printing: SPED, Rome Project Managers: Ottavio Novelli & Hossam Kamel Publishing directors: Moustafa Fouda & Guido Benevento Publishing Coordinators: Said Dahroug, Carl Dutto & Marco Marchetti Accountants: Gianluca Mattioli & Ahmed Eidy Production assistants: Mohamed Ali, Mohamed Effat, Haytham Abd el Fatah, Wed Ibrahim, Mohamed Ismail, Mohamed Mayhoob, Walid Ahmed el Sayed, Mohamed Sameh, Arafa el Sayed, Mohamed Talaat, Abd el Nasser Yassin Special thanks to: Ali Abusdera, Ali Basili, Remigio & Carmela Benni, Aldo Biondi, Mohamed el Ashri, Alexis S. Cahill, Lucia Caruso, Lea Cavallari, Ali Gaballa, Antonio Gianmarusti, Dona Khanfour, Zaccaria Latif, Dahlia Lotayef, Moustafa Mahamoud, Iman Naim, Filippo Scammacca, Jacqueline Shahinian, Alberto Siliotti.

Produced by the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Project with support from Italy’s General Directorate for Development Cooperation (DGCS), the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) and with technical assistance from the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Š Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Project, 2002 Contact address: Nature Conservation Sector 30, Misr Helwan El-Zyriae Road, 7th floor Maadi, Cairo, Egypt Tel. & Fax : +2 (02) 5284792 / 5271391 Email : Web-site:

Contributors1 Mohamed Abed, Professor, Mansoura University, Egypt Yousri Attia, Director, Egyptian Geological Museum Mindy Baha el Din, Environmental Consultant Sherif Baha el Din, Technical Adviser, Nature Conservation Sector Ferial el Bedewy, Head of Laboratories Sector, Egyptian Geological Survey and Mining Authority

Gamal Gomaa M. Medani, Wildlife Department, Veterinary Medical Faculty, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt

Guido Benevento, AttachĂŠ of the Italian Cooperation, Cairo, Egypt Loutfy Boulos, Consultant, Plant Diversity of Arid Regions Edda Bresciani, Director of Archaeological Missions in Egypt Pisa University, Italy

Nikolai Sindorf, Associate Expert Water Management and GIS, Fayoum Water Management Project

Said Dahroug, Consultant, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, Cairo University Ilaria Di Silvestre, IUCN Monitoring Assistant, Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Project Fatma M. Fouda, Girls College, Zoology Department, Ain Shams University Moustafa M. Fouda, Director, Nature Conservation Sector, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency David Giles, Water Management Specialist, Fayoum Water Management Project Mohamed Kassas, Emeritus Professor of Botany and Applied Ecology, University of Cairo Hossam Kamel, Director, Protected Area Management Unit (PAMU), Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Eilasha el Macari, Father Superior, Coptic Monastery, Wadi el Rayan G.H. Mattravers Messana, IUCN Senior Technical Adviser, Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Project 1

Editor’s note: Authors assume responsibility for the content of their own contributions, which, do not necessarily reflect the opinions and policies of the institutions supporting the publication of this volume.

Ottavio Novelli, Co-manager, Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Project Mahamud Abbas Saleh, Professor, Texas Southern University, Houston, Texas

Part I

The distant past: biology and the evolution of life 1. Introduction ........................................................................ 04 2. An evolving ecosystem ...................................................... 08 3. Geology and palaeontology .............................................. 14 4. Fossils ................................................................................. 18

Part II

The recent past: ecology and history of the Western Desert 5. The flora and its main habitats ......................................... 24 6. Desert ecology and animal diversity ................................ 28 7. Caravan routes and the history of the Western Desert ... 34 8. The Coptic Monastery ....................................................... 40

Part III

The present: planning and management of natural resources. 9. From the Nile to Fayoum: the birth of two lakes ........... 46 10. An internationally important bird site ............................ 50 11. Fisheries management ..................................................... 54 12. Management of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area ........ 60

Part IV

The future: sustainable development and the wise use of nature. 13. Development and monitoring of economic activities ... 68 14. Tourism and recreation ................................................... 74 15. Future plans for the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area ....... 78

Appendices 87



Checklists of species


Abbreviations and acronyms

The distant past biology and the evolution of life

Figure 1. The protected areas of Egypt (cartography: IDS & MRR).

1. Introduction Mohamed Kassas Wadi el Rayan is one of the depressions in Egypt’s Western Desert and has the advantages of being near the Nile Valley, being uninhabited (unlike its twin depression of Fayoum) and having a considerable depth (60 metres below sea level at its lowest point) and volume (a storage capacity of 21 cubic kilometres of water at 30 metres above sea level). In the late 19th century there was a debate as to whether to use Wadi el Rayan as a reservoir for the Nile’s flood waters or to build a dam across the river in its upper reaches. A dam at Aswan was seen as the best solution, and by 1902 the Aswan reservoir had been built, later (1912 and 1933) being raised to increase its storage capacity. The question of Wadi el Rayan was thus shelved.

stakeholders in effective management of the area, as well as soliciting the support of policy-makers at regional and national levels. The authors of the following chapters have been involved in studies of the area and are concerned over its future. They thus combine scientific and technical expertise with the conviction that the area deserves special conservation attention. Wadi el Rayan is a part of Egypt’s natural heritage: it is our privilege to enjoy it and our duty to conserve it for the benefit of future generations.

Interest in Wadi el Rayan was revived in about 1950 in connection with the concept of “century storage”, in which it was seen as a likely reservoir basin to be used as an escape valve for flood control and storage. A scheme was designed, encompassing an inlet canal from the Nile to the depression and an outlet canal to lead the stored water back to the Nile. Work started in the early 1950s. In the 1960s, however, the Aswan High Dam scheme replaced all century storage schemes, and the Rayan flood-water storage project was abandoned. In the late 1960s agricultural drainage of the Fayoum farmland into Lake Qarun (bottom at 45 metres below sea level) increased, overflowing the lake and threatening adjacent farmland. As a lower-lying basin (up to 60 metres below sea level), the Rayan depression seemed suitable to take part of the Fayoum drainage water, and a scheme was designed to convey water from the southern Fayoum farmland to Wadi el Rayan along a channel that is partly open (7 kilometres) and partly in a tunnel (7.7 kilometres). This drainage water created the upper lake during the 1970s and then in the early 1980s spilled over - in a waterfall that is a special attraction of the area - and formed the lower lake. These two man-made brackish lakes added a significant feature to the Rayan landscape and provided a wetland habitat for a variety of resident and transient wildlife. They also allowed various new land uses (farming, fisheries and recreation), while an abandoned monastery was renovated and reoccupied. These changes brought inhabitants to the area and made it hard to manage nature conservation. The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area (WRPA) covering a total area of 1,759 km2 was instituted by Prime Ministerial Decree 943 in 1989, in accordance with Law 102 of 1983. The protected area became the focus of an active project within the framework of the Egyptian Italian Environmental Programme. The present volume gives a general survey of the area (geology, geomorphology and wildlife) and outlines future prospects. Thus, Parts I and II describe fossils, landforms, habitat types and plant and animal species, and Parts III and IV discuss the conservation issues involved and plans for management of the area. The volume is intended to provide visitors and stakeholders with basic information on the ecology and biodiversity of the area and the scientific bases for proposed management actions aimed at conserving its unique environmental and natural features, which include some remarkable fossil sites. It is hoped that it will ensure the positive participation of visitors and

Dawn: low clouds over the desert in Wadi el Rayan.

Previous double page. Wadi el Hitan - the valley of whales - in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area. Forty million years ago there used to be a great ocean - now ancient cliffs eroded by wind and water overlook breathtaking views of unique geological formations and represent a gateway to the Western Desert, a part of the Great Sahara ecosystem stretching across North Africa from the Red Sea coast of Egypt to the Atlantic coast of Mauritania. Just below the sands lie the secrets of the distant past - huge fossils of whales and other marine creatures are scattered on the ancient sea floor. Wadi el Hitan is now considered as a palaeontological site of international importance, which is renowned among scientists and desert travellers the world over.


Figure 2. Overview of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area and the Fayoum depression (cartography: IDS, NS, CT).

Figure 3. Baseline map of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area (cartography: IDS, NS, CT).

2. An evolving ecosystem Mahmoud Abbas Saleh

General description The Wadi el Rayan depression has been well known to travellers between the Nile Valley and the northern oases of Egypt’s Western Desert for centuries. The lower part of the depression has been gradually covered by two lakes since the drainage canal was opened in 1973. The upper lake reached its maximum level in 1978, covering approximately 5,100 hectares in the Wadi el Masakheet sub-depression. From here the water flows through a shallow swampy area and over a waterfall into the lower lake, which is not yet full but is estimated to cover approximately 7,700 hectares.

Before 1988 the area was accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles along a track connecting the upper lake and the nearest village in the Fayoum Governorate, 22 kilometres to the east. Several roads have now been built connecting the area to the Fayoum depression and the Nile Valley and allowing a broader range of human activities. A three-dimensional elevation model of the area, showing the main points of interest, is given in Figure 4.

The water of the three natural el Rayan springs, located below Minqar el Rayan in a site known as the Oyun el Rayan or Springs area, is believed to come from the remotely charged Nubian sandstone strata (Ball, 1927). The output has been measured as 1.6, 4.8 and 14.4 litres per minute for the northern, western and southern springs respectively (Zahran, 1970). A new spring was dug out by Coptic monks between the western and the southern springs in 1999. All the springs provide drinking water for wildlife. The physical and chemical properties of the lakes and the springs, including seasonal variations, were studied in 1988 and 2000 (Saleh et al., 1988a; Saleh et al., 2000). The area is marked by moving belts of sand dunes and is separated from the deepest part of the depression by dune fields and rock terraces. The dune fields consist mostly of longitudinal seif dunes, varying from several hundred metres to 30 kilometres in length and up to 30 metres in height. The area has a typical hyper-arid desert climate (Ayyad & Ghabbour, 1986), hot and dry with bright sunshine throughout the year. The temperature ranges from 1.2°C to 48.8°C, and annual precipitation averages 10.1 millimetres, almost totally in the form of irregular rainfall. The potential evapotranspiration rate is extremely high throughout the year; coupled with low precipitation, this makes the area one of the most arid places in the world. The prevailing winds are north-west, north or north-east, resulting in the formation of extensive sand dunes. Much wind-blown sand is deposited in the Wadi el Rayan depression and the Oyun el Rayan area. Extensive dune fields run the length of the Wadi el Rayan depression and into Wadi Muwellih and Oyun el Rayan. They are packed closely together in the southern part of the Wadi el Rayan depression, forming a huge and practically impassable mass. Moving further westwards and southwards, they gradually separate, creating interdune valleys that vary in width from under 100 metres to over 2 kilometres, the widest being found in the Oyun el Rayan area. Phytogenic sand mounds up to 30 metres across and 10 metres high are scattered throughout the interdune valleys. Most of these mounds are formed around Tamarix nilotica and Calligonum comosum and to a lesser extent Nitraria retusa, and they play an important role in the ecology of the area. Left - The shore of the lower Rayan lake near the Medawara mountain.

The waterfalls - the only permanent waterfalls in Egypt - feed water into the lower Rayan Lake and are one of the protected area’s best known attractions


Wildlife The significance of the wildlife of Wadi el Rayan, together with the urgent need to preserve it, was first pointed out by the present author and his colleagues (Saleh, 1984, 1985; Fouda & Saleh, 1987). After surveying gazelle habitats in Egypt, Saleh (1987) reported the small size of the population of Slender-horned gazelle Gazella l. leptoceros in Wadi el Rayan, one of the few remaining wild populations of this species in the world. The structure of the sand dune ecosystem of Wadi el Rayan was also described and analysed (Saleh et al., 1988b). The fish of the lakes were covered by Fouda and Saleh (1988), while the birds of the lakes were studied by Saleh (1998) in relation to seasonal changes in the vegetation on their shores. Information on the wildlife and ecology of the Wadi el Rayan area is scarce and incomplete, except for a limited number of publications and graduate theses by the author, his research team and colleagues. The flora and fauna of the Wadi el Rayan depression and those of Oyun el Rayan prior to the formation of the lakes have never been fully described, although an inventory of the flora and vertebrate fauna of the Oyun el Rayan area, particularly those of sand dune habitats and their local distribution and ecological affinities, has been published (Saleh et al., 1988b). Saleh (1985) has provided a tentative list of the phyto- and zooplankton, insects and other arthropods, molluscs, fish, birds and mammals of the Rayan lakes and adjoining area. Most of the wildlife species of Oyun el Rayan and Wadi Muwellih are highly specialized desert forms, although only a few species are specifically adapted to sandy habitats (Kassas, 1984). Following the formation of the lakes, a number of animal species typical of the mesic habitats of the Nile Valley reached the Oyun el Rayan area. These include the Jackal, Canis aureus lupaster, which invaded the Wadi el Rayan and Oyun el Rayan areas in 1983 when the expanding lake reduced the barren desert expanse separating these areas from the Fayoum farmland, a more typical habitat for the species, but the impact of the arrival of this relatively large and powerful predator on the ecology of the area is unknown. The Egyptian mongoose, Herpestes ichneumon, has also invaded the lakeshores since the early 1980s, and is now common on the shores of both lakes. A large number of bird species has also occupied niches in and around the lakes and in Oyun el Rayan. More animal and plant species will certainly occupy the newly created habitats in the future.


Some of the animal species found in the area provide intriguing examples of adaptation to arid habitats, but very little - and in some cases nothing - is known about their ecology, physiology or even the most basic aspects of their biology. One of these is the ubiquitous Sand fox, Vulpes rueppelli. Nothing is known of its physiology and there is only one recent report on its ecology. Others include the Fennec fox, Vulpes zerda. Of the two gazelle species inhabiting the area, Gazella dorcas is listed as an endangered species, while Gazella leptoceros leptoceros, is extremely rare (Saleh, 1987) and is now probably locally extinct (IUCN, 2000b). Reedbeds along the eastern shoreline of the lower Rayan lake constitute vital feeding and breeding grounds for fish and waterbirds.

Figure 4. Three dimensional elevational model of Wadi el Rayan (cartography: MAS)







Figure 5. Satellite images showing the formation of the Rayan lakes over the period 1972 – 2000 (cartography: MAS).










Figure 6. Satellite images highlighting changes in land use in Wadi el Rayan between 1987 and 2000: (a) oil extraction, (b) aquaculture, (c) land reclamation scheme (cartography: MAS).

Saleh carried out a field survey of the insects of Wadi el Rayan between 1980 and 1986, while a more complete survey was carried out by his research team in 1992 (Basyouni, 1992; Galhoum, 1991). A total of 113 species of insects was identified, representing 11 orders and 43 families. Three of the 11 orders represented in these reports - Coleoptera (29 species), Hymenoptera (214 species) and Lepidoptera (24 species) - account for 68% of all identified species. Galhoum (1991) carried out a detailed survey of the desert beetles of Wadi el Rayan, identifying 166 species, and El-Henawey (pers. comm.) carried out a preliminary survey of the arachnids of Wadi el Rayan. Thirteen plant species were identified and reported by Saleh et al. in 1998. Vegetation is confined to areas between dunes, around springs and at the base of large dunes. Four types of plant community were identified by Saleh et al. (1988b). The changing situation Many changes have occurred in the Wadi el Rayan area since the lakes were formed in 1973. The progress of their formation is illustrated in Figure 5. Significant effects started to be seen in 1988, with the area around the springs suffering most. The human activities with the most impact include agricultural land reclamation, digging and exploration for crude oil, fish farming, the building of cafeterias, the creation of tourist visiting areas, and the reoccupation of the Samuel Monastery. Figure 6 shows Landsat images of the area in 1987 and 2000, indicating those parts suffering the greatest impact. The area around the springs is a particularly fragile ecosystem, deserving special protection.


Detail of a typical rock formation in Wadi el Hitan. Right - The Wadi el Hitan fossil area, in the north-west of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area.


3. Geology and palaeontology Ferial El Bedewy & Said Dahroug Many of the dominant geomorphologic features in Wadi el Rayan are a result of severe erosion of sedimentary rocks with varying degrees of hardness. There are numerous isolated hills, such as the roundish Gabal el Medawara facing the lakes, and Garet Gehannam, a good landmark on the way to Wadi el Hitan. There are many hillocks at Wadi el Hitan, such as Akhwat el Talata (Three Sisters Hill), while curious huge globular masses are met with in many places, especially Wadi el Battikh (Valley of Water Melons). These masses are weathered concretions that were worn by the water of the prehistoric Lake Moeris (ancestor of Lake Qarun) when its level was falling. A large belt of longitudinal seif dunes occupies the floor of many parts of Wadi el Rayan. In many places in Wadi el Hitan, the weathering of the rocks has given rise to earth pillars and strange-shaped hillocks sculpted by the weathering action of blown sand and rain. The stratigraphy indicates that the oldest beds in this area are related to the Wadi el Rayan Formation, consisting of clay, marl and limestone, dating back to the Upper Lutetian - Lower Bartonian Age (about 41 to 45 million years ago). These beds are fossiliferous, with plenty of Nummulites gizehensis Forskal. The Wadi el Rayan Formation is succeeded by the Gehannam Formation of the Eocene Age (Bartonian and Priabonian, about 40 to 41 million years ago), consisting of white marly limestone and gypseous clay. This formation, like the lower part of the overlying Birket Qarun Formation, is of particular interest in yielding many skeletons of the marine archaeocetes Basilosaurus isis and Prozeuglodon atrox, in addition to a variety of shark teeth. Large fossils of sea turtles and crocodilians are present but rare. The macro-invertebrate fauna of the Gehannam Formation includes many bivalves such as Lucina and Tellina, most of which are infaunal and are typical of shallow rather than deep sea bottoms, while epifaunal elements include Lobocarcinus (crabs). Abundant mangrove pneumatophores and anchor roots are being eroded from the top of the Gehannam Formation over a broad area in Wadi el Hitan. The upper part of the Gehannam Formation and the lower part of the overlying Qarun Formation are unusually rich in celestite (strontium sulphate), reflecting restricted oceanographic conditions where partial evaporation of sea water resulted in concentrated lime and strontium sulphate. Various nummulites and planktonic foraminifera indicate that the Gehannam Formation was deposited on a shallow shelf in open marine waters, and that this occurred partially during a period when the sea was at a low level. The Gehannam Formation is followed by the Birket Qarun Formation, consisting of fossiliferous sandstone and clay with sandy limestone, with Nummulites fraasi, Qerunia cornuta Mayer-Eymar, Cardita vequesnelli Oppenheim Bell and Turritella pharaonica Cossman. Left - These huge globular masses known as “Water Melons� are weathered concretions common in the Wadi el Hitan area.

Typical sedimentary rock formations in the Wadi el Hitan area.


The invertebrate fauna of the lower Birket Qarun Formation appears similar to that of the underlying Gehannam Formation, indicating that both were deposited on a shallow marine shelf with evidence of restricted circulation and chemical precipitation of evaporates in the form of celestite (see above). The Birket Qarun Formation contains very constant and well marked beds of hard calcareous sandstone, almost invariably weathered into huge globular masses, as in Wadi el Battikh. A well-marked black carbonaceous band is found here, suggesting anoxic bottom conditions. The conditions in Wadi el Hitan, 12 kilometres west-southwest of Garet Gehannam, are of special interest. The brown sandstone of the Birket Qarun Formation is divided here by a narrow band of fine-bedded grey clay. Most of the fantastically shaped hills on the south-western slope of the valley are carved out of the lower division of the sandstone. Remains of cetaceans of the species Basilosaurus isis and Prozeuglodon atrox are remarkably abundant and are found in every stage of weathering. Basilosaurus is the more common, and series of vertebrae are often found. In one instance a large portion of a Basilosaurus skull measuring about one metre in length was found enclosed in a large block of nodular rock. The basal beds of the Upper Eocene Age Qasr el Sagha Formation with Carolia placunoides can be detected in some of the upper parts of exposures in the Wadi el Rayan area, such as those found at Garet Gehannam, Minqar el Hut, Sandouk el Borneta and Minqar el Abyad. Their richness in molluscan fauna reflects conditions favourable to growth (currents rich in oxygen). The Qasr el Sagha Formation in this area shows a shallow marine environment, unlike that in northern parts of the Fayoum depression, where it shows a fluvio-marine environment.


Stony outcrop in the Wadi Hitan area.

Figure 7. Geological map of the Fayoum depression (source: Beadnell, 1905).

4. Fossils Mohamed Abed & Yousri Attia Wadi el Hitan (or Zeuglodon Valley) is about 12 kilometres west of the prominent hill of Garet Gehannam in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area. It is marked by a rich content of both vertebrate and invertebrate fossils, and is practically an open display-case in the desert. Many whale skeletons dating back to the Eocene Age are found on or near the surface, while thousands of nummulites of various kinds are scattered on the ground beside exposures containing macro-invertebrate fossils - a situation typical of the three formations found here (Gehannam, Birket Qarun and Qasr el Sagha). Vertebrate fossils Cetaceans and sharks (witnessed by fossil shark teeth) are the dominant vertebrates found in Wadi el Hitan. The whales known from the Eocene Age were different from those of the modern groups and are placed in a separate suborder, Archaeoceti. The body was very long - up to 21 metres - and apparently thinner than that of modern whales, suggesting a sea-serpent form, probably fairly inefficient for swimming. The skull was long and the nostril was some way back. The teeth are very interesting in that they were of the normal mammalian number (44) and showed some signs of a heterodont arrangement. The molars had sharp crenate edges, as in other fish-eaters, and the animals were obviously carnivorous, suggesting a possible creodont ancestry. These animals, such as Basilosaurus, persisted into the Miocene Age, but their exact connections with the two modern groups of whales are not clear. Basilosaurus had a mouth that was highly specialized for eating fish, cephalopods and plankton (Figure 8). Its appendages allowed it to creep on land.

Figure 8. Class: Mammalia, Infraclass: Eutheria, Order: Cetacea, Brisson 1763, Suborder: Archaeoceti, Flower 1883, Family: Basilosauridae, Cope 1868, Genus: Basilosaurus, Basilosaurus isis. Change in position of the blowhole (Nos.) during the evolution of whales. The two upper figures show the correlation with the Eocene Basilosaurus, while the lower figure shows the modern toothed whale.

Beadnell was the first to record Zeuglodon isis in 1906 (now Basilosaurus isis, see Gingerich et al., 1990), which probably lived about 42 to 40 million years ago. It was named by Beadnell in Andrews (1904, p. 214), who described the best specimen, a dentary, with a total length of 83 centimetres, and stated that this “may be taken as the type�, thus making the name available. Andrews (1904) gave the type locality as the Birket el Qarun beds of the Fayoum area, while Beadnell (1905, p. 44) added that the type came from cliffs near the west end of the lake. The type is illustrated in Andrews (1906, fig. 78). Beadnell’s (1905) section of the Birket Qarun Formation at the west end of Lake Birket Qarun is shown in Figure 25. The type specimen of Basilosaurus isis may have come from the top of the Gehannam Formation, from the Birket Qarun Formation, or conceivably (but improbably) from what is here called the lower part of the Qasr el Sagha Formation. Whether the specimen came from the Gehannam or the Birket Qarun Formation at the west end of Birket Qarun matters little, since the age is likely to be earliest Priabonian in either case (the uppermost Gehannam Formation in this area is probably Priabonian). Prozeuglodon atrox was named by Andrews (1906), based on a type skull and a lower jaw collected by Beadnell from the Birket el Qarun beds in Zeuglodon Valley, or what is now called Wadi el Hitan. The type specimen of P. atrox retains deciduous premolars, showing that it was a juvenile, and subadult specimens indistinguishable from the type specimen are common in both the Gehannam and Birket Qarun Formations in Wadi el Hitan. Beadnell (1905) did not always distinguish the Gehannam and Birket Qarun Formations lithologically, and they do overlap in time to some extent. The age of the type specimen of P. atrox would therefore be latest Bartonian or earliest Priabonian.

Figure 9. Class: Mammalia, Infraclass: Eutheria, Order: Cetacea, Brisson 1763, Suborder: Archaeoceti, Flower 1883, Family: Basilosauridae, Cope 1868, Subfamily: Dorudontinae, Miller 1924, Genus: Dorudon osiris, Zeuglodon osiris, Dames 1894.

Left - Basilosaurus isis skeleton in Wadi el Hitan (Specimen prepared by the late WRPA ranger Mohamedin Ali, under the supervision of Yousri Attia).


Invertebrate fossils Macro-invertebrate fossils are commonly found in three major rock types: shale, compact white limestone and sandy hard brown limestone. The mode of fossil preservation varies widely in these different types of rock. In most cases the specimens occur as moulds, obscuring their internal structure, but usually retaining their external features. In the limestone basal beds of the Qasr el Sagha Formation, Carolia, oysters and a few other genera retain their original material and structure. In some cases in the upper beds of the Gehannam Formation and the lower beds of the Birket Qarun Formation, the shells are replaced by celestite (strontium sulphate). As the silt and clay content increases, preservation improves, as is clearly seen in some upper Eocene beds of the Qasr el Sagha Formation. The majority of the macro-invertebrate fossils found in the sedimentary sequence in Wadi el Hitan are related to the phylum Mollusca. The most frequent are bivalves, followed by gastropods, while nautiloids are rare. The following molluscs are the most frequent macro-invertebrate fossils found in Wadi el Hitan (see Figure 11): A - Class: Bivalvia, Order: Pterioida, Superfamily: Anomiacea, Family: Anomiidae Genus: Carolia, Cantraine 1838, Carolia placunoides, Cantraine 1838. This species is typical of the basal beds of the Qasr el Sagha Formation. It is found in some exposures in the south of Wadi el Hitan where the basal parts of this formation are exposed. The shells are found crowded together and may even form a complete bed. Carolia has a diameter that would indicate the

Specimen of Basilosaurus isis, coiled in its typical death position

Dorudon osiris is the largest species of Dorudon from Egypt, and all are from the Qaser el Sagha Formation of the late Eocene Age (Figure 9). D. osiris is one of three species of Dorudon recognized by Kellogg from the Qaser el Sagha Formation in 1936. A new and more advanced archaeoceta, Ancalecetus simonsi, is described from the Birket Qarun Formation (earliest Priabonian, late Eocene Age) of Wadi el Hitan (Figure 10). A. simonsi is similar to Dorudon atrox in many ways, but differs conspicuously in having fused elbows and other distinctive features of a forelimb structure, as well as a more curved malleus in the middle ear. Ancalecetus appears to have been a viable if highly specialized evolutionary experiment, an experiment that may have contributed nothing to the subsequent evolution of cetaceans, but that does broaden our understanding of the morphological diversity of archaeocetes. 19

Figure 10. Family: Basilosauridae, Cope 1868, Subfamily: Dorudontinae, Miller 1924, Genus: Dorudon osiris, Ancalecetus simonsi, Gingrich 1996. Cranium of Ancalecetus simonsi





I Nummulites gizehensis, an indicator species typically associated with the middle Eocene in the Fayoum region. II Spine of bony fish. III Oyster shell, abundantly found in the Eocene deposits of Wadi el Hitan. IV Shark tooth from the Eocene.

Figure 11. Most common macro-invertebrate fossils found in Wadi el Hitan.








ability virtually to float on soft mud sea bottoms, and that it was an epibyssate suspension feeder. The fossils are in a good state of preservation. B - Suborder: Ostreinae, Superfamily: Ostreacea, Family: Gryphaeidae, Subfamily: Pycnodonteinae, Stenzel 1959, Genus: Pycnodonte, Fischer de Waldheim 1835 Pycnodonte gigantica, Solnder 1766. Thick-shelled oysters indicate a shallow water environment, since such oysters live nowadays at shallow depths near the shore. This large, thick oyster is found in the basal beds of the Qasr el Sagha Formation and also in the upper beds of the Birket Qarun Formation. C - Family: Ostreidae, Subfamily: Ostreinae, Genus: Ostrea, Linnaeus 1758, Ostrea elegans Desh. var. exogyroides, M-Eymar. This species is found in the upper beds of the Birket Qarun Formation and the basal beds of the Qasr el Sagha Formation. It has a very individual shape and ornamentation.




G - Genus: Vulsella, Lamarck, Vulsella crispate, Fischer. In many places where oysters are less prominent, vulsellas are the commonest variety. The specimens collected from the Gehannam and Birket Qarun Formations are in a good state of preservation. H - Class: GASTROPODA, Order: Mesogastropoda, Thiele 1925, Family: Turritellidae, Woodward 1851, Genus: Turritella, Lamarck 1799, Subgenus: Torquesia, Douville 1929, Turritella (Torquesia) carinifera, Deshayes 1824. This upper-Eocene species is found abundantly in both the Birket Qarun and Qasr el Sagha Formations. I - Turritella (Torquesia) pharaonica, Cossmann 1901. Specimens of this upperEocene turritellid are found mostly in the same beds as those containing T. carinifera, Deshayes.

D - Subfamily: Lophinae, Genus: Nicaisolopha, Vyalov 1936, Nicaisolopha clotbeyi, Bellardi 1854. The members of this characteristic small upper-Eocene oyster are found in the upper beds of the Birket Qarun Formation and the basal beds of the Qasr el Sagha Formation.

L - Genus: Mesalia, Gray 1842, Mesalia fasciata, Lamarck. This species has a wide spire angle, wide whorls and numerous spiral ribs, the anterior second being the most prominent. It is frequently found in the Birket Qarun Formation.

E - Order: Veneroida, Super family: Lucinacea, Family: Lucinidae, Genus: Lucina, Lucina fajumensis, Oppenheim 1903. This species was identified for the first time by Oppenheim (1903) in Fayoum Governorate. It dates back to the late middle Eocene Age and was found in both the Gehannam and Birket Qarun Formations.

M - Family: Aporrhaidae, Genus: Drepanocheilus, Meek 1864, Drepanocheilus wagihi, Abbass 1963. This species is found in the Birket Qarun Formation and is characterized by its fusiform shape, convex whorls, undulating sutures, axial ridges and short anterior canal.

F - Superfamily: Carditacea, Family: Carditidae, Genus: Cardita, Cardita viquesneli, Oppenheim 1903. This species, characterized by numerous tripartite radial ribs, is found abundantly in the upper beds of the Gehannam Formation and the lower beds of the Birket Qarun Formation.

N - Class: CEPHALOPODA, Order: Nautiloidea, Genus: Nautilus, Nautilus mokattamensis, Food. The specimens of this species are the rare remains of cephalopods in Egyptian Eocene rocks. They are found well preserved in the Birket Qarun Formation and are indicative of normal marine salinity. 20

The recent past ecology and history of the Western Desert


5. The flora and its main habitats Loutfy Boulos The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area comprises four major types of habitat: the two man-made lakes formed by the accumulation of agricultural drainage water channelled from the Fayoum depression, sand dunes and desert plains, oasistype vegetation in the vicinity of the springs and cultivated land. The lakes Water from the upper lake flows out to the south, over a waterfall and into the lower or southern lake, which contains more brackish water than the upper lake. The major element in the vegetation bordering the lakes is the Common reed Phragmites australis (bous, hagna or ghab), which varies from dense, almost impenetrable thickets to thin rows lining the lake shores. Some areas around the lakes remain without any conspicuous vegetation. Thickets of Tamarix nilotica (abal or tarfa), tufts of Juncus rigidus (samar murr) and clumps of Pluchea dioscorides (barnouf) and Typha domingensis (deil el-qut, dees or bardi) grow here and there on the border of the lake. Adiantum capillus-veneris (kuzbarat el-bir) grows in sheltered crevices in the spray zone by the waterfalls and is the only fern species known in the Wadi el Rayan region. Four submerged hydrophytes have been recorded in the lakes, especially in less brackish water: Ceratophyllum demersum (nakhshoush el-hout), Najus marina subsp. armata (horreish), Myriophyllum spicatum (hazanbal) and Potamogeton pectinatus (deil el-faras). Sand dunes and desert plains There is a large, virtually rainless area in the desert plains, mainly southwest of the lakes, occupied by a sand dune ecosystem. According to Saleh et al. (1988a), this ecosystem lies within the hyper-arid warm Saharan region where the main source of water is a superficial groundwater table.

Zygophyllum album (rotreit) and Nitraria retusa (ghardaq). Vegetation is limited to low-lying inter-dune areas and the base of larger dunes. Saleh et al. (1988a) recognize the following three plant communities: 1.Alhagi graecorum. The vegetation in the low-lying areas between the dunes is dominated by Alhagi graecorum (aqoul), which constitutes an average 88% of the plant cover of this community. Associated species are Tamarix nilotica, Nitraria retusa, Calligonum polygonoides subsp. comosum (arta), Phoenix dactylifera (nakhil el-balah), Sporobulus spicatus (sammah) and Zygophyllum album. 2.Desmostachya bipinnata. This community is found in slightly higher areas than those occupied by Alhagi. The perennial grass Desmostachya bipinnata (halfa) is the dominant species, constituting 75% of its plant cover. It takes the form of clumps covering small mounds of sand and covers large areas, associated with Zygophyllum album, Nitraria retusa, Calligonum polygonoides subsp. comosum and Tamarix nilotica. 3.Calligonum polygonoides – Nitraria retusa – Tamarix nilotica. This community is characterized by a sparse plant cover of mound-forming individuals of the three species, which together account for 90% of the plant cover, associated with patches of Alhagi graecorum and Zygophyllum album. Oasis-type vegetation An oasis-type vegetation, characterized by herbaceous perennial species, occurs in the vicinity of the springs. Typha domingensis grows close to the actual springs, while Phragmites australis extends over a large area where the soil is water-saturated. Clumps of Juncus rigidus grow on the edges of the wetlands,

Plant cover in the desert plains is poor and there are sometimes large areas with no vegetation at all. Unlike many other desert regions in Egypt, no ephemeral growth has been observed in these plains, obviously due to the scarcity of rainfall. The species that do occur in these desert plains include Haloxylon salicornicum (rimth), Hyoscyamus muticus (sakaran), Salsola imbricata subsp. gaetula (kharit), Cornulaca monacantha (haad) and Stipagrostis ciliata (hmeira), as well as some individuals of Zygophyllum coccineum (balbal),

Previous double page. The Springs area, nestled between limestone ridges and dune fields, represents one of the last vestiges of Wadi el Rayan’s natural habitat. This is an uncommon example of a virtually uninhabited and still undisturbed Saharan oasis containing four natural springs and populated by several rare and now threatened animals, including gazelles, foxes and other mammals. Until the recent past, Bedouin camel caravans used to stop here for water, food and rest on their long desert journeys between the Nile valley, Fayoum, Baharia and the other more distant oases of the Western Desert. Left - Cornulaca monocantha.

Salt tree (Nitraria retusa).


intermixed with a few individuals of Juncus acutus (samar). Cyperus laevigatus (dees) forms mats on the fringes of the community, while Sporobolus spicatus forms small sandy hillocks not far from the springs. Imperata cylindrica (halfa or deil el-qott) grows at some distance from the springs but where the soil still has an adequate water content. Associated species are Sonchus maritimus (howa), Spergularia marina (abou ghulam), Scirpus maritimus (heesh), Cressa cretica (molleih), Arthrocnemum macrostachyum (shenan), Cynodon dactylon (negil), Polypogon monspeliensis (deil el-far) and Pluchea dioscorides (barnouf). Cultivated land An area of about 10,000 hectares, west of the southern lake, has recently been reclaimed for the benefit of young graduates and their families living in a village near the reclaimed land. Drip irrigation is used throughout the area, where Olea europaea (zaitoun) is the main cultivation. A few other cash crops such as Hibiscus sabdariffa (karkadé) and Zea mays (durra) are also cultivated. Some weeds associated with these crops have been observed, such as Echinochloa colona (abou-rokba), Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (dirs el-kalb), Cyperus rotundus (se’ed), Sonchus oleraceus (go’edeid), Cynanchum acutum (moddeid or libbein), Cynodon dactylon, Ranunculus scleratus (zaghalanta), Rumex dentatus (hommeid), Launaea nudicaulis (morrar), Launaea capitata (halawan), Cressa cretica, Convolvulus arvensis (olleiq), Polypogon monspeliensis, Melilotus indicus (nafal), Solanum nigrum (‘enab el-Deib) and Malva parviflora (khobbeiza).


Common reed (Phragmites australis).

Camel thorn (Alhagi graecorum). Right - The Springs area in the south-west of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area.



6. Desert ecology and animal diversity Sherif M. Baha el Din Introduction The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area falls within the hyper-arid climatic region of the Sahara, with mild winters and hot summers (Ayyad & Ghabbour, 1986), receiving an average annual rainfall of 10 millimetres (Saleh et al., 1988a), mostly in winter. Landform, substrate texture and access to groundwater are the main determinants of habitat types in Wadi el Rayan. Five types of desert habitats or sub-habitats have so far been identified, each with its own set or combination of animals and plants: sand dunes, hard substrate plains, wadis and depressions, cliffs and rocky outcrops, and oases. Hot deserts are characterized by scarce and highly unpredictable precipitation, extreme temperatures and a low biomass. In order to survive, wildlife has adopted strategies either of avoidance or of toleration of difficult conditions (Louw & Seely, 1982). For example, to escape the high temperatures of summer, diurnal desert animals are usually active early or late in the day, and most desert animals are in fact nocturnal. Some species occur only seasonally, dying off during unfavourable times, or migrating in and out of the desert to take advantage of predictable resources; the Sooty falcon Falco concolor is an example here. Others are capable of remaining dormant for extended periods. Under certain conditions some species become nomadic, such as gazelles, which migrate over long distances in search of better grazing where rain may have fallen recently. Numerous adaptations in order to tolerate desert life have been identified, ranging from morphological to physiological and behavioural. The most obvious include the coloration of desert animals, which blends in with the surroundings, reducing potential predation. Physiological adaptations include tolerance to extreme temperatures and dehydration. Water is the primary limiting factor in the productivity of desert ecosystems (Louw & Seely, 1982). Under the almost waterless conditions predominant over much of the Egyptian Western Desert, local primary productivity is virtually nil. However, a surprising diversity of fauna manages to eke out a life here, and mammals as large as Rßppell’s sand fox Vulpes ruepelli ruepelli can be found. In this simple ecosystem the local fauna depends precariously on biotic input from external sources, largely wind-blown plant material and transient migratory wildlife. Detritivorous insects such as silverfish (order Thysanura) and darkling beetles (family Tenebrionidae) play an important role in the food chain, transforming simple organic matter into protein, on which larger predators such as lizards feed. Lesser gerbils Gerbillus gerbillus gerbillus have a similar role, being capable of creating their own water through food oxidation. The desert wildlife of Wadi el Rayan belongs largely to the Saharo-Sindian biogeographical zone and is very much like that of the rest of the Egyptian Western Desert. However, the development of the Wadi el Rayan lakes over the past three decades and the recent establishment of agriculture are having an effect on the desert ecosystem and its biodiversity. While some species have lost important parts of their habitats (e.g. the Slender-horned gazelle Gazella leptocerus leptocerus), others more typical of the Nile Valley have managed to Left - The Dorcas gazelle is now rare and difficult to observe in Wadi el Rayan. These animals were photographed in the Eastern Desert (photo, RK & DA).

Dragonflies are amongst the most widespread and noticeable invertebrates in and near wetland habitats of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area.

penetrate further into the desert due to establishment of the lakes (e.g. the Red fox Vulpes vulpes aegyptica and the Palm dove Streptopelia senegalensis). Habitats and wildlife of Wadi el Rayan A total of some 43 vertebrate species (13 mammals, 11 birds and 19 reptiles) have been recorded in the desert habitats of Wadi el Rayan. The lists provided in the appendix are by no means complete. Not much is known about several groups, especially among the invertebrates, but even some vertebrate groups, such as bats, are virtually unstudied. Below is a brief review of the habitats of the desert fauna of Wadi el Rayan, focusing largely on resident native species. Many transient species, particularly birds and insects, visit the area on route to or from their wintering grounds, and some spend the winter in the region. Although these make an important contribution to the local ecosystem, they are not considered here as part of the native biological components. Sand dunes Wind-blown sand in the form of dunes and undulating sand occupies a substantial area, usually in low-lying and sheltered locations in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area. Sand dunes are one of the most distinctive ecological and morphological features of desert ecosystems, and this is certainly true in 28

Wadi el Rayan. The uniqueness of this habitat type is illustrated by a host of animals and plants that have evolved special adaptations to life in sandy biotopes and are often confined to this habitat type. Adaptations include morphological features that facilitate movement in or on loose sand, such as the wedge-shaped snout and highly polished skin of Audouin’s skink Sphenops sepsoides and the Sand fish Scincus scincus (for sand swimming) or the padded soles of the Fennec fox Vulpes zerda (for more efficient locomotion on sand). Some species have evolved intricate behavioural tactics to take advantage of sand either for foraging or for fleeing from predators; an example is the Lesser sand viper Cerastes vipera, which hides under the surface to ambush passing prey.

Many of the invertebrates of Wadi el Rayan still need to be surveyed and identified.

The distribution and density of various flora and fauna on dunes are closely related to their morphology. Saleh et al. (1988a) noted that little vegetation is found on top of larger mobile dunes. Faunal diversity is similarly low in such places. Much of the vegetation is confined to inter-dune troughs and sand sheets, where sand often accumulates around shrubs and bushes, forming phytogenic mounds. The mounds formed around Nitraria retusa and especially Tamarix nilotica bushes sometimes reach remarkable sizes (over 10 metres high). They represent an important structural component of the desert ecosystem of Wadi el Rayan and provide crucial microhabitats for numerous invertebrates and vertebrates. Characteristic fauna of sandy biotopes in Wadi el Rayan include domino beetles (family Carabidae), the Saharan fringe-toed lizard Acanthodactylus longipes, the Lesser sand viper, the Hoopoe lark Alaemon alaudipes, the Fennec fox and the Lesser jerboa Jaculus jaculus. Plains of coarse substrate Open gravel- and nummulite-covered desert plains occupy most of the protected area. This, however, is the least productive habitat. Vegetation is almost absent and confined to small runnels and depressions where sufficient rainwater might accumulate. Food is limited, and refuge from the harsh climate and potential predators is scarce. Nevertheless, a few animal species manage to thrive in this desolate environment. In such an open terrain with very low productivity, two strategies work best: concealment and economy. Thus, we find that animals living here are well camouflaged and adopt a sit-and-wait foraging mode. The most commonly encountered species are the Changeable agama Trapelus mutabilis, the Red-spotted lizard Mesalina rubropunctata and the Desert mantid Eremiaphila sp. The Elegant gecko Stenodactylus sthenodactylus can be found at night, wandering slowly on extended legs in search of insects. Ectotherms, such as reptiles and invertebrates, have an ecological edge in this environment. Given their low energy requirements, they can stay alive for extended periods without food, and they have the ability to slow down their physiological processes when adverse conditions set in. For example, a lizard can sustain itself for a whole month on the same amount of food that a bird of the same size needs for one day (Bennett & Nagy, 1977).


Despite being a fairly large sized diurnal animal, seeing a Desert monitor is not easy. These animals are very cautious, almost always disappearing before one can see them. However, their distinctive tracks are a sure way to detect their presence (photo, RK & DA).

There are very few mammal and bird species here, and their densities are low. The species involved have to be able to cover vast areas of the open plains in order to find sufficient food. Rüppell's sand fox and the Lesser jerboa, both nocturnal, are practically the only mammals that regularly roam over much of these plains. Hoopoe larks occasionally wander into the plains from more favourable adjacent habitats, while Brown-necked ravens Corvus ruficollis forage widely over the area. The Changeable agama bones frequently found in their droppings attest to this.

Beetles are perhaps the most diversified faunal groups in desert environments. Some 166 species have been recorded from Wadi el Rayan (photo, RK & DA).

Wadis and depressions Occasional cloud-bursts sometimes produce sufficient runoff to accumulate in a few short wadis and depressions, particularly in the west of the protected area. Annuals grow in small wadis, but perennials such as Cornulaca monacantha and even Tamarix sp. are found in larger ones. Under normal conditions, this habitat is the haunt of animals also found on the plains. The Hoopoe lark, the Nidua lizard Acanthodactylus scutellatus, Steudner’s pygmy gecko Tropiocolotes steudneri and the Libyan jird Meriones lybicus lybicus are typical of this habitat. If rainfall is exceptionally abundant, extensive vegetation growth may take place, attracting nomadic birds such as the Cream-coloured courser Cursorius cursor and occasionally small flocks of Temminck’s horned lark Eremophila bilopha or the Bartailed desert lark Ammomanes cincturus (in winter). In the past, both the Dorcas gazelle Gazella dorcas dorcas and Slender-horned gazelle would have made extensive use of this habitat, but they have now retreated to less accessible localities.

The Fennec is the world’s smallest fox. It feeds largely on insects and other small animals, which it detects with the aid of its large ears, listening for the slightest movement below the desert surface (photo, RK & DA).


The Hoopoe lark is unusual amongst larks in building an elevated nest on short vegetation, perhaps serving to insulate the young from ground heat or protect them from predators (photo, RK & DA).

Cliffs and rocky outcrops Although limestone cliffs and hills occupy only a small portion of the protected area, they add an important ecological dimension to the local landscape. Some biological components are restricted solely to cliffs, making them a distinct habitat. Cliffs, ridges, caves, ledges and boulders all provide shade, an extremely important commodity in a hot desert environment, and they therefore act as day-time shelter for certain nocturnal animals, such as jackals, various bats and Horned vipers Cerastes cerastes. They also offer secure nesting sites for the Sooty falcon, the Brown-necked raven and probably Pharaoh’s eagle owl Bubo ascalaphus. Moreover, they are home to Anderson’s fan-toed gecko Ptyodactylus (guttatus) siphonorhina and the Egyptian gecko Tarentola annularis. Over much of the Sahara, rocky outcrops provide the only shelter available for migrants on their long trans-Saharan journey. Thousands of migratory birds 31

descend to rest under any object that provides some shade, and large outcrops in Wadi el Rayan often attract considerable numbers of migrants. Unbeknownst to these exhausted birds, many of them completely out of their element here, some of the local fauna has learned to take advantage of this seasonal bounty. In the shade among the rocks lie the Saharan sand snake Psammophis aegyptius and the Horned viper, awaiting the next reckless migrant to come their way. Migrants are not safe even on the wing, for Sooty falcons are always on the look-out for low-flying birds: these falcons breed in the autumn and depend solely on the influx of migrants to feed and raise their chicks. Oases Oases are perhaps the most prominent feature of the Western Desert and are the only permanent sources of water and vegetation over much of this desert, which occupies around two-thirds of the country’s area. Most oases are inhabited and some have been considerably modified by man. The area around

Olivaceous warbler Hippolais pallida, the Southern grey shrike Lanius meridionalis, the Hoopoe lark and the Rufous bush robin Cerotrichas galactotes, a summer visitor. Jackals and hares are moderately common. Though rarely seen, the Desert monitor Varanus griseus is a fairly common diurnal predator that roams widely in the Springs area. Status of the desert fauna of Wadi el Rayan and its habitats With the exception of several large mammals, the conservation status of most of the desert fauna inhabiting Wadi el Rayan is still stable or favourable on both national and global levels. However, the habitat available to some species outside Egypt’s Protected Area network is rapidly shrinking, thus increasing the value of habitats found in existing protected areas. Uninhabited oases and the associated sandy biotopes with vegetation are particularly threatened. The importance of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area for biodiversity conservation stems largely from its inclusion of such habitats. According to the World Conservation Union (IUCN, 1996), four species found in the desert habitats of the protected area are globally threatened: the Slenderhorned gazelle occurred until the mid-1980s, but has probably been locally eliminated; the Dorcas gazelle is still found in the area in small numbers, but the population has diminished significantly and is still declining; and both the Fennec fox and Rüppell’s sand fox are uncommon, but appear to be stable, although demand for the former by animal traders is undoubtedly reducing its population throughout the country. Although scorpions are prominent inhabitants of the protected area desert habitats, only a handful of species are thought to occur (photo, RK & DA).

The Horned viper lying in wait to ambush rodents and birds (photo, RK & DA).

the springs in Wadi el Rayan represents an excellent and rare example of an uninhabited Saharan oasis. The Springs area is the focal point for desert wildlife in the protected area and is where the greatest terrestrial biodiversity is found. It is a shallow sandy depression surrounded by a limestone escarpment on all sides except the east, where it is closed off by a series of high longitudinal dunes. A superficial aquifer supports a fairly dense and varied natural vegetation, dominated by Alhagi graecorum, Nitraria retusa, Calligonum polygonoides and Tamarix nilotica. There are small reed swamps and scattered date palms surrounding the springs. Most of the locally breeding birds are confined to - or dependent on - the oasis. Birds typical of this habitat are Pharaoh’s eagle owl and the Palm dove, the 32


7. Caravan routes and the history of the Western Desert Edda Bresciani Introduction Since prehistoric times, the oases in the Western Desert have played an essential role for human groups seeking to settle in the Nile Valley. They have also formed a buffer or shelter zone for nomadic inhabitants of the desert when the climate became increasingly arid, providing them with water, firewood and fodder for their livestock. The presence of underground springs and artesian wells, which have existed since ancient times, also allowed sedentary groups to settle in the “desert islands”, which became green with cultivation and the presence of trees - palms, tamarisks and acacias. In historical times, the oases (the word oasis comes from the ancient Egyptian uhat, through Greek and Latin) were outposts of Egypt, staging posts for caravans and/or garrisons. In ancient times, as today, they contained villages, administrative centres and temples, while Christian communities have settled there since Coptic times. The oases and their inhabitants have had permanent ties with the Nile Valley since ancient times, for there is a kind of road connecting up the various oases and running parallel with the Nile. This road became particularly important in the second century AD when the camel became commoner, allowing traffic between the valley and the oases to be increased in Roman times. The camel’s resistance to thirst and the fact that it can carry between 120 and 200 kilograms, as against the donkey’s maximum load of 60 kilograms, make the camel more suited to such conditions than the donkey, which had been used in earlier times. In the Roman era, the oases of the Western Desert grew in economic importance, partly because people now knew better how to exploit the resources of the water table and organize the sharing out of water among the various users, fulfilling an essential condition for life. Human occupation of these islands in the desert was not unbroken, and this is in many ways still the case today. Anyone studying the history and archaeology of the oases must know how to use the information provided by various specialists, from botanists to geologists and from Egyptologists to papyrologists. Fayoum and Wadi el Rayan: the caravan route The most famous traveller in the Western Desert was certainly Alexander the Great, who first took the coastal route to the oasis of Siwa, but then travelled back to Memphis, where he was crowned pharaoh, by the route through the Western Desert, from Siwa to Baharia, then cutting across the Nile Valley and presumably passing through Sitra, Qasr, Zabu, Bahr Balama, Wadi el Rayan and Fayoum - though it is possible that after Zabu he went to Oxyrhynchus and regained the Nile Valley from there. He probably decided to build a temple at Baharia after his successful crossing of the desert and his arrival there. The presence of a temple for dynastic worship dedicated to Alexander, built about two hundred years later at Kom Madi near Medinet Madi on the south-western edge of the Fayoum depression, with celebratory scenes painted in GraecoEgyptian style, also recalls the visit of the great Macedonian and his companions. Left - Bedouin camel caravan travelling in the Western Desert.

The limestone lion, guardian of the temple in Medinet Madi.


The temple of Medinet Madi.

The depression known as Wadi el Rayan is one of the series of small oases in the Western Desert, along with Kurkur and Qara, while the larger ones are Qattara, Kharga, Dakhla, Farafra, Baharia, Siwa and Fayoum. Wadi el Rayan, which has a maximum width of about 2 kilometres, reaches an altitude of 120 metres at its highest point, while its lowest point, around the springs, is 40 metres below sea level. It is connected with the great Fayoum depression, and can in fact be seen as a south-westerly extension of the latter. The Fayoum depression is surrounded by the desert and contains a prehistoric inland sea derived from the Mediterranean (the present Lake Qarun, which contains salt water). Unlike other depressions in the Western Desert, it receives its fresh water not from springs, but from a system of canals coming from a 35

branch of the Nile, the Bahr Yousef (or Joseph’s Canal). Home to hunters and fishermen, and then to farming groups, known as the Fayoum A and B cultures, it is archaeologically very rich, with remains dating from predynastic times and the pharaonic dynasties (particularly the Middle Kingdom, second millennium BC) down to Greek, Roman and Byzantine times. The Fayoum desert is rich in fossils, especially Gebel Qatrani north of Lake Qarun and west of Medinet Madi. Apart from primate fossils, there are also fossils of tortoises, snakes and crocodiles, the great reptiles that would be the most important deities in the Fayoum area in historical times. Particularly in Greek and Roman times, but even today, Wadi el Rayan was

visited by camel caravans travelling between Fayoum and the oasis of Baharia (or northern oasis), following routes that start at Beni Suef in the Nile Valley. They travel along the south-western edges of the Fayoum desert, touching Tutun, Talit and Garaq, and passing within sight of Kom Madi and Medinet el Nahas (the most south-westerly point of the Fayoum depression, where it juts out into the desert), then stopping at the watering points in Wadi el Rayan, before continuing towards Baharia. Nineteenth-century travellers such as Gaillaud also followed this route. The description left by G.B. Belzoni, who followed it as far as Baharia in 1819 is still very interesting reading. Had he continued on the long caravan trail to the northwest, he would have reached Siwa, which was in fact his original destination. Starting from Sedmin, he came to Rejen-el-Cassar (Wadi el Rayan), which he describes as a once inhabited place, rich in ancient remains and springs (“All you have to do is make a hole in the ground with a stick and water wells up�). Control towers to watch the passing caravans and collect tolls were built along the caravan routes near villages and larger settlements. The tower recently identified and studied at Tebtynis yielded up receipts for such payments written in Greek on ostraka (potsherds) and papyrus, and similar receipts on ostraka were found at Medinet Madi, where Pisa University’s most recent archaeological missions have identified another similar building. In the 1940s, A. Fakhry identified another of these towers in Wadi el Rayan, at Ain el Wastania, the most important of the watering points in the oasis. This tower is built of blocks of stone, like those found at Baharia and the other large oases in the Western Desert. At Ain el Wastania, Fakhry identified other

Sphinx with head of a Ptolemaic King in Medinet Madi.

Symbols of life and power in the Medinet Madi temple of Amenemhat III.


archaeological remains from Roman times, as well as rock tombs, dwellings and a small temple. Unfortunately, the lack of texts or illustrations prevents attribution of the latter to any precise deity. At Wadi Mawalih in the southern part of Wadi el Rayan, the Deir Amba Samuil was built close to the Ain Samar springs in the fourth or fifth century. Later abandoned, it has recently been inhabited again. The monastery can also be reached by a track that comes into Wadi el Rayan from Garaq Sultani in the south. Wadi el Rayan was also one of the main points on the caravan route between the northern oases (such as Wadi Natrun), Fayoum and Baharia. The trail passes west of Lake Qarun, and at Abu Ballas it is marked by the presence of a large number of earthenware vessels and amphorae from Roman times. At Kasr Qarun there is a fortress from Diocletian’s era, indicating the importance of this outpost. From here the trail skirts the area of Medinet Madi, which is only seven kilometres west of Wadi el Rayan. Its dunes of various shapes and heights are a magnificent feature of the Western Desert, which is for the most part sandy, but they are also one of its dangers, threatening and often wiping out ancient and modern farmland and settlements as they advance. There are many large dunes in the area south-west of the Fayoum depression, stretching into Wadi el Rayan, and some of them are swallowing up the ancient site of Medinet el Nahas, which is along the route to Wadi el Rayan. Man has always waged a constant battle with the desert, struggling to win farmland in the teeth of wind degradation and the desertification caused by the strong westerly winds that blow across the Sahara, carrying huge amounts of sand. The twelfth-dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat III (1842-1786 BC), who was responsible for the agricultural rise of Fayoum, founded the town of Gia (now known as Medinet Madi) on the edge of the cultivated area. The temple in this town, dedicated to the cobra goddess Renenut and the crocodile god Sobek, is still in a good state of preservation. We know that other ancient settlements in the Fayoum area were built on the edge of the desert, the desert itself being used for burial purposes, so that they did not take up valuable farmland and in fact acted as a weapon in the fight against desertification. Pisa University has been digging at Kom Medinet Madi for years and has recently discovered a new Ptolemaic-era temple there. However, the great discovery of Amenemhat III’s temple must be credited to the Italian archaeologist Achille Vogliano over thirty years ago. A hymn in Greek is engraved on the pillars of the atrium of the Medinet Madi temple, listing the prodigious exploits of Amenemhat, and these include the fact that “he sailed on the desert mountain with wheels and sail” - perhaps a reference to an early form of windsurfing. On a platform in the temple, the archaeologist found a wooden model of a cart with a mast for a sail. So the sandy spaces of the desert west of the Fayoum depression - probably between the Medinet Madi hill and the Wadi el Rayan depression - apparently offered a pharaoh from the second millennium BC a chance to indulge in a spectacular sport. 37

The Royal names inscribed on temple columns in the Medinet Madi temple of Amenemhat III. Right - Medinet Madi: the dromos of the temple conquered by the sands.



8. The Coptic Monastery Father Eilasha El Macari & Guido Benevento The establishment of the Coptic Church in Egypt is said to have begun with the Holy Family’s visit to Egypt in fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy. Christianity reached Egypt early, with the arrival of St Mark the Evangelist, who became the first Patriarch of Alexandria. Tradition has it that the desire to become a monk evolved in Egypt, when Father Antonios went out in order to live alone in the silence and beauty of the desert wilderness. Thus hermits spread a form of monasticism associated with a new way of life in the wilderness of Egypt, and many monasteries and churches were established in remote places in the Western Desert. The beauty of these isolated locations was found to be conducive to the monastic tenets and to the individual purity these monks sought. There is a manuscript in St Makhar’s Monastery in the Natroun Valley stating that St Makhar the Alexandrian had a cave in Wadi el Rayan. In the seventh century Father Samuel Al-Mouaref (the Confessor) started his life in the Kalamoun wilderness and the monks then spread to Wadi el Rayan. Following the tradition, the hermits of Wadi el Rayan practised a strict asceticism, spending most of their time in contemplation and in study of spiritual texts. In the 1950s some monks from the monastery of Father Samuel visited Wadi el Rayan, accompanied by Father Matta El-Meskin. His feet became swollen, preventing him from walking back to the monastery with them, so that they left him alone beside the south spring for a few days until they could bring a donkey to carry him back. In 1960 Father Matta El-Meskin decided to move to Wadi el Rayan, and a number of his disciples followed him and decided to live there under the palm trees. When they reached the northern spring, they found a nomad named Ali Al-Ahwal (the Cross-eyed), who asked them why they had come. They told him that they were planning to live there, so he put them on his camels and brought them to the main cave. Since this was very small, they started enlarging it, so that it could hold all the monks, then gradually expanded the area by preparing other caves in which individual monks could live alone. A small wetland was discovered, in which the monks dug and found a spring of water. A wooden fence was put up around this spring and a small garden created in which they planted vegetables to provide basic food for themselves. Above - Jug and incense burners in one of the common rooms of the monastery. Left - The refectory and kitchens of the Coptic Monastery in Wadi el Rayan

Two young monks who reside in the Wadi el Rayan Coptic Monastery.


Interior of the rock chapel of the Wadi el Rayan Monastery.

In May 1969 Pope Kirollos VI invited the monks to return to St Makhar’s Monastery in Wadi el Natroun, and the monks obeyed his wishes, leaving the beautiful quiet valley in Wadi el Rayan. Longing for the peace of Wadi el Rayan, however, some of the monks then decided to return in 1998 in order to pass the remainder of their lives in this tranquil area. The old caves were renovated and to this day a small monastic community lives there, far from the clamour of the world. The monks start their worship at three in the morning, glorifying and thanking 41

God in the name of all his creatures. They then carry out their daily work, gathering together at 1 p.m. to pray and eat. They meet again in the rooms to pray, thanking God for his help and requesting peace for the world and all nations. The monks practise love of all God’s creatures as manifestations of God’s infinite ingenuity and wisdom, which surpasses human understanding. Their faith is affirmed and their love for the Creator grows in the realization of his infinite powers. Deep inside they feel love, friendship and joy for all God’s creatures.

Stone is a vessel whereon time is engraved. And time has sculpted this stone, forming the dwelling of the monks of Father Matta El-Meskin. They set forth to find serenity in meditation and prayer, tracing in the vastness of the sands the path where past and future become one. All nature in Wadi el Rayan bears witness, As each fragment of life interlaces with the mosaic of time. Yet the monastery signifies far more. It is here that man may find the origins of his own conscience. It is here that memory and hope may resist oblivion and survive to eternity.

Detail of a sacred wooden screen in the chapel.

The entrance to one of the caves where individual monks live in quiet seclusion and meditation.



The present planning and management of natural resources



9. From the Nile to Fayoum: the birth of two lakes David Giles & Nikolai Sindorf The Fayoum depression is an ancient irrigation area. During Pharaonic times the Bahr Yousef (Joseph’s Canal) was a natural branch of the Nile, inundating the depression whenever the yearly floods of the Nile were high enough. A huge lake (the ancient Lake Moeris) covered most of the depression. After the floods, some of the water would flow back to the Nile, while some of it evaporated. This flooding over the course of thousands of years deposited a thick layer of Nile silt, one of the foundations of modern agriculture in Egypt. In Pharaonic times, the lake reached levels of up to 30 metres above sea level, as compared to today’s 44 metres below sea level (Euroconsult & Darwish, 1992). The area was sparsely populated and rich in wildlife. Thriving towns, depending on trade caravans, existed along the ancient lakeshore, and their ruins can still be visited on hills just outside the irrigated area. Over time the Bahr Yousef silted up, the flooding became less frequent, and the lake level started to fall, exposing the fertile Nile deposits, which were ideal for agriculture. The lake level was about 18 metres above sea level from the twelfth dynasty until Ptolemy I, and fell to about 2 metres below sea level around 300 BC. In Roman times the level dropped further to about 36 metres below sea level (Evans, 1991). Previous double page. The Wadi el Rayan open canal and tunnel, about 14 km long, were constructed between 1968 and 1974 in order to divert excessive drainage water from the Qarun lake. This ensured that water levels in the lake did not rise and cause the flooding of agricultural land. So through the use of modern technology and the efforts of countless workers, water from the Fayoum oasis was channelled into a depression in the desert - and the Wadi el Rayan lakes were borne. Wadi el Rayan is a birdwatchers’ paradise and birdwatching is possible all year round. The greatest numbers occur in the winter when the lakes teem with waterbirds. Several species stop over on their long migrations between Europe and Africa, while others simply come here to spend the winter. For this reason Wadi el Rayan has recently been included in an international list of Important Bird Areas.

Above - Harvesting of crops in the fertile agricultural lands of the Fayoum depression. Left - Traditional Fayoumi water wheel lifting water from a canal for irrigation.

Detail of a traditional pigeon loft


Large works to control the flow of essential Nile water for irrigation were constructed, first by the Pharaohs, and later by the Ptolemys and the Romans (Euroconsult & Darwish, 2000). These works included deepening the Bahr Yousef, the construction of large weirs with gates to regulate the water near Lahoun, and at a later stage the construction of an immense reservoir on the south-eastern side of the depression. This reservoir was operational well into the centuries after the Islamic conquest, and traces of large brick dam walls can still be seen.

Entrance to the tunnel taking excess water from the Fayoum depression towards Wadi el Rayan.

After centuries of decline, the present modern irrigation system was initiated by Mohammed Ali in the early 19th century, and later extended and refined under British administration. In addition to the ancient central area of the Fayoum depression, where the famous orange and mango orchards are situated, canals were built along the outer contours of the depression, greatly increasing the irrigated area. Finally, the Aswan High Dam and a number of smaller dams on the Nile were constructed in the 1960s, guaranteeing a year-round irrigation water supply and making multiple cropping possible. There are two main drains that carry water to Lake Qarun: the Batts Drain, which carries water from the eastern portion, and the Wadi Drain, which serves a catchment area of approximately 23,000 hectares in the western half of the Fayoum depression. For part of its course the drain has carved out a relatively deep valley or wadi; hence its name. In the mid-1930s the water of the Wadi Drain was diverted to Mokhtalatah, where an electrical turbine was installed. At this point there was a large drop in level and the water was diverted through the turbine and back to the Wadi Drain. It was realized that there would be even more drainage water when the Aswan High Dam was completed. Measures would need to be taken to ensure that the water levels in Lake Qarun did not rise, flooding agricultural land and damaging the hotels and houses that had been built along the shore. There was a deep depression to the southwest of the Fayoum depression 47

Traditional pigeon loft in the village of Tunis.

known as Wadi el Rayan, and it was decided that the best solution was to divert some of the water from the Wadi Drain to this depression instead of to Lake Qarun. The hydroelectric power station had to close. The Wadi el Rayan open canal and tunnel were built between 1968 and 1974, starting just upstream of the hydroelectric station. The open canal is about 7 kilometres long and runs into a three metre diameter tunnel about 7.7 kilometres long. The canal can carry as much water as necessary to the depression to maintain Lake Qarun at the right level (about 43.8 metres below sea level) and its area at about 250 km2. So the lakes of Wadi el Rayan were born. The area of the upper lake is about 55 km2, with the water surface at about 8.70 metres below sea level and a maximum depth of about 25 metres. The area of the lower lake is about 58 km2, with the water surface at about 23 metres below sea level and a maximum depth of about 30 metres (FWMP, 2001). Water management in the Fayoum area is crucial to the future of Wadi el Rayan. There is now an overall water shortage for the irrigated agricultural area, and as a partial solution drainage water is being pumped into canals to supplement the irrigation supply. As a result of this re-use, the amount of drainage water flowing to the lakes will decrease. It may be necessary to divert more of the water now flowing to Wadi el Rayan towards Lake Qarun in order to maintain the level of that lake. Moreover, the water of the upper lake is being used to irrigate newly developed agricultural areas and aquaculture schemes. With all these developments taking place, the water management of Wadi Rayan is receiving renewed attention. Studies are performed so that the management can be adjusted towards the new requirements and to enable the integrated use of the lakes for tourism, environmental protection, fisheries and agriculture.

Exit from the Wadi el Rayan open canal feeding the upper Rayan lake

Donkey transport – still a common means of transport in the rural areas of Fayoum.



10. An internationally important bird site Ilaria Di Silvestre With its variety of habitats and its position near the Fayoum depression as well as the Nile Valley, Wadi el Rayan represents one of the most important bird sites in Egypt. In 1999, BirdLife, an international federation for the conservation of all bird species and their habitats, recognized the international importance of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area for bird conservation by including it on its list of Important Bird Areas (Baha el Din, 1999). The latter are defined as places of international significance for the conservation of birds at the global, regional or sub-regional level. Before the creation of the two artificial lakes in the 1970s, Wadi el Rayan was inhabited only by bird species typical of a desert environment, and these are still present today in the arid and hyper-arid parts of the protected area. Most of them, such as the Brown-necked raven Corvus ruficollis, the Hoopoe lark Alaemon alaudipes and the Cream-coloured courser Cursorius cursor, are resident in the protected area. Others, such as the Sooty falcon Falco concolor, migrate to Wadi el Rayan only for the breeding period. All these species are native components of the desert ecosystem, perfectly adapted to the hot, waterless conditions of the area, and each of them has developed the capacity to optimise use of the poor resources of the desert. The Brown-necked raven, for example, can be observed all over the area, nesting on the limestone cliffs and hills, while the Hoopoe lark, a widespread species in the protected area, and the Great grey shrike Lanius excubitor prefer the shadow of the Nitraria retusa and Tamarix present in the Springs area. The Sooty falcon nests on the cliffs and hills of Wadi el Rayan in August and September, relying on the arrival of migratory birds in the autumn to feed its young. The Cream-coloured courser is especially frequent on the plains and in depressions, typically feeding by running and suddenly stopping. Nevertheless, the international importance of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area as a bird site is mostly related to the water birds that have been increasingly attracted by the lakes since they started to form. The Rayan lakes are now considered an internationally important site for wintering ducks and shore birds and for the migration of Palaearctic birds, ranging from passerine species to herons, storks and birds of prey (Baha el Din, 1999). The lakes have also been colonized by some resident breeding species, such as the rare Purple gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio. The lower lake is more suitable for the observation of ducks, purple gallinules and herons, while the upper lake hosts a larger and more varied population of passerines. The majority of the species present in the Rayan lakes and wetlands (74%) are migratory. In the autumn, these birds leave their reproduction areas, generally in northern Europe, to travel to areas with a milder winter. Some, such as the Silvidae, begin their journey south before the onset of cold weather and food scarcity, while others, such as most ducks (Bruun & Singer, 1975), leave only when snow and ice force them to do so. Left - A flying white stork (Ciconia ciconia) (photo, RK & DA).

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis).


Purple gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio) (photo, RK & DA).

Roughly a third of these migratory species, such as the Pochard Aythya ferina, Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Wigeon Anas penelope and Tufted duck Aythya fuligula, and occasionally the globally threatened Ferruginous duck Aythya nyroca, end their journey at the Rayan lakes, spending the whole winter here. The absence of any threat from hunters, due to constant patrolling by rangers, has made the protected area an ideal wintering site for all these species. Other migratory birds stop in Wadi el Rayan for a rest before leaving again for more southerly destinations. These species include the White stork Ciconia ciconia, the Black kite Milvus migrans, the Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus, the Osprey Pandion haeliatus, Buzzards Buteo spp., and other raptors, the Crane Grus grus, the Swallow Hirundo rustica and the Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava. Such birds regularly pass through the same sites during certain welldefined - and usually relatively short - periods of the year. The protected area with its two lakes half-way through their migratory route across the desert is a precious stopover site for them. Some other species, such as the Coot Fulica atra (the most common bird inhabiting the Rayan wetlands: IUCN 2001a), the Moorhen Gallinula chloropus, the Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus, the Little egret Egretta garzetta and the Grey heron Ardea cinerea, are found in Wadi el Rayan throughout the year, being partially migratory, inasmuch as only some of their population migrate, while the rest stay in the area throughout the year (IUCN, 2000b). For example, the Slender-billed gull Larus genei is very common on the Rayan lakes during the winter, whereas only a few rare individuals are found in the summer because most of them move to the nearby Lake Qarun, where they find a more favourable breeding habitat. 51

Little egret (Egretta garzetta).

An estimated 7% of the bird species present in the area of the Rayan lakes and wetlands are breeding residents. These include the Little bittern Ixobrychus minutus, the Spur-winged plover Hoplopterus spinosus, the Pied kingfisher Ceryle rudis, the Graceful warbler Prinia gracilis and the Clamorous reed warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus. The presence of a considerable resident breeding population of Purple gallinules (over 1% of the bio-geographic population) is particularly noteworthy, increasing the international importance of the protected area as a bird site (Baha el Din, 1999). In December 2000 the staff of the protected area estimated that there were 1,000 Purple gallinules living in the wetlands along the shores of the upper and lower Rayan lakes. Lastly, a small number of species more typical of the Nile Valley has been attracted by the recent establishment of farming activities in the protected area, penetrating into the desert from the cultivated areas of the Fayoum depression. Species such as the Collared, Palm and Turtle doves Streptopelia spp., the Senegal coucal Centropus senegalensis and the Hoopoe lark are therefore found today around the land reclamation village, as well as in the areas of other human habitations and facilities in the protected area. The development of a favourable new ecosystem after the creation of the lakes has led to a steady increase in the number of bird species. A provisional checklist including a total of 168 bird species present in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area is given in an appendix to this volume. Spur-winged plover (Hoplopterus spinosus).

A white stork (Ciconia ciconia) in the lower Rayan Lake.

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis).

Clamorous reed warbler (Acrocephalus stentoreus).


11. Fisheries management Moustafa M. Fouda & Fatma M. Fouda Introduction The Wadi el Rayan depression in Egypt’s Western Desert is located in the south-western part of Fayoum Governorate and has an area of 703 km2 at 30 metres below sea level. A project to use the depression as a reservoir for excess drainage water from Qarun Lake (Zahran, 1970) started in October 1968 and has been in operation since January 1973, with 200 million cubic metres of water now being drained into Wadi el Rayan each year. The depression today contains two lakes at different elevations. There is permanent shallow water in the connecting area between the lakes, providing conditions for continuous cover by emergent aquatic macrophytes. The lower lake is larger than the upper and is still growing, with newly flooded areas being progressively added on the south-western side of the lake. The maximum-recorded water depth in the lower lake is 33 metres. The lakes vary greatly in their physical and chemical characters, with the upper lake being less saline (0.5‰) than the lower (3.2‰) or the newly flooded areas (17 to 33‰), while nutrients are higher in the upper than the lower lake (Saleh, 1998). The plan to use the Wadi el Rayan depression, as a drainage reservoir was not a simple matter, for it was clear that it could lead to ecological and environmental changes in the region. Comprehensive ecological studies were therefore carried out in the mid-1980s (Saleh et al., 1988a), resulting in recommendations that led to the proclamation of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area (Prime Ministerial Decree 943 of 1989). However, very little was done regarding development and management of the area’s lakes until 1998, when the Italian Government provided technical and financial support to the Egyptian Government to develop and manage this protected area1. The Fish Fish tend to be restricted to the shallow littoral zones of the lakes, where vegetation is abundant, providing ideal conditions for shelter, feeding and breeding. They are not common in the deeper central waters of the lakes, owing to the low transparency and probably the anaerobic conditions of the bottom, as is the case in Lake Nasser. Data collection methods. Field visits were made to the Wadi el Rayan lakes in the course of 1999 and 2000. Fish were either collected by seine and gill nets or obtained from fishermen’s catches, in order to identify the various species present and their distribution level; body length and weight were also determined. A species list is given in an appendix to the present volume. Field observations were made regarding the type and size of fishing gear and the number of fishing boats and fishermen, and fishermen were interviewed. Numerous private-sector requests to establish more fish cages, as well as complaints concerning prohibited activities by fish farms, led to field surveys to examine the current status of fish cages and farms, while all reports prepared by IUCN experts were carefully examined. The annual fish statistics published by the General Authority for Development of Fish Resources were consulted and compared with field observations and an earlier study by Fouda and Saleh (1987). Staff of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area were also interviewed regarding their views on the existing management of the lakes and to find out what kind of problems exist, with a view to drawing up recommendations for effective and sustainable development of the Wadi el Rayan fisheries. 1

Left - Fishermen tending to their boats and fishing gear.

A fisherman displaying his catch.


hatcheries, including the Common carp Cyprinus carpio and the Grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella, and those that were introduced as fry from the Mediterranean Sea, mainly from Alexandria and Damietta, including mullet (Mugil cephalus and Liza ramada) and other marine species. Freshwater species predominate over marine species. However, some species such as Alestes nurse, which is common in laucustrine conditions (as in Lake Nasser: Latif, 1984), are present in very small numbers. Other freshwater species such as Eutropius niloticus, Hydrocynus forskalii and Mormyrus spp. have not so far been recorded, probably because the ecological niches of the Wadi el Rayan lakes are not yet suitable for all the freshwater species recorded in the Nile. Cichlids have exploited the ecological niches more efficiently than other species, followed by the various mullets, and then by predators. Fisheries Fishery activities have been carried on in the Wadi el Rayan lakes since 1980, first by a private company, and then since 1983 by the General Authority for Development of Fish Resources, which implemented a policy to develop the lakes. This policy included transplanting fish fry of different species into the lakes, controlling fishing gear and the numbers of boats and fishermen, establishing two fish cooperatives (one for each lake) and setting up a committee to manage fisheries. Fish transplantation Mullet fry of two species, Mugil cephalus and Liza ramada, have been brought in from the Mediterranean each year since 1980. In 1984 the total number was four million, which increased to ten million in the late 1980s and has reached twelve million in the last few years. With the increased numbers of fish hatcheries all over Egypt, more tilapia and carp fry are being put into the lakes each year: two million Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus, 3.5 million Common carp, and half a million Grass carp.

Fish have to negotiate the waterfall to descend into the lower Rayan lake.

Thirty-four fish species have been recorded, divided into two groups: those that arrived in the drainage water from Fayoum Governorate, and those that were introduced as fry in order to increase fish production in the lakes (see the species list in an appendix to this volume). The first group includes cichlids (Tilapia zillii, Oreochromis niloticus, Sarotherodon galilaeus, Hemichromis bimaculatus and Haplochromis spp.), the Nile perch Lates nioloticus, cyprinids (Labeo and Barbus spp.) and the African catfish Clarias lazera. The second group can be divided into two subgroups: those that were produced in fish 55

Fishing gear Most fishing is conducted from row boats with trammel nets, locally known as dabbah. The mesh size is 2.5 to 4.5 centimetres and the net length varies from 250 to 400 metres, with a depth of 1.5 to 2 metres. Fishing usually takes place between late afternoon and dawn, and the main fish caught by this method are tilapia and mullet. About 30 boats are allowed to fish with hooks and lines to capture large predators. The number of fishing boats licensed to work in the lakes has increased from 129 (93 in the upper lake and 46 in the lower lake) in 1985 to 679 (532 in the upper lake and 137 in the lower lake). In 1999 it was estimated that a further 200 fishermen were working in the lakes without licences, most of them in the channel connecting the two lakes. The actual number of fishing boats counted by protected area staff does not exceed 100 in the upper lake and 80 in the lower lake. Visual observations indicate that on any given day the number of fishing boats in use is about 40 (20 for each lake), with between 150 and 180 fishermen. This indicates that the licensed boats (679) and fishermen (about 2,000) far exceed those needed for the two lakes.

Fishing seasons In 1985, the fishing season was restricted to seven months a year - from midSeptember to the following April - but during recent years it was extended to nine months, and then to ten months in year 2000. The season is now closed from the first week of February until the end of March in the upper lake, and from the second week of July until the second week of September in the lower lake. The closed season is supposed to allow the fry introduced into the lakes each year to grow, as well as the resident fish to spawn. However, illegal fishing is practised, despite the fact that Water police are stationed at the entrance to each lake. Fish landings Actual catches are usually higher than officially declared landings, as tends to be the case with most small-scale fisheries. In 1991, official catches were 752 tons, falling in the following three years and reaching a low of 481 tons in 1994. However, there was a continuous rise in the following five years, reaching a high of 1,654 tons in 1999 (see Table 1). Tilapia and mullet accounted for over half total catches. Fish production was much higher in the upper lake (1,132 tons) than the lower lake (522 tons), a pattern observed over many years and maybe a result of the greater ecological stability of the upper lake. Table 1. Fish catches (tons) Fish Mullet Tilapia Nile perch Catfish (Bagrus) Sea bream Other catfish Eels Sea bass Carp Other fish Total

1991 77 466 62 30 11 6 0 27 5 68 752

1992 1993 1994 231 97 128 154 329 281 94 9 9 7 12 7 4 0 0 4 14 4 0 0 0 2 1 0 3 14 6 47 51 46 546 527 481

1995 146 329 19 31 0 11 0 0 19 56 611

1996 187 332 44 19 0 12 3 0 35 70 702

1997 197 371 108 31 0 19 0 0 63 87 876

1998 252 366 121 28 0 25 0 0 62 219 1073

1999 336 555 150 35 0 47 0 0 105 425 1654

Source: General Authority for Development of Fish Resources, 2000

Aquaculture Aquaculture in Wadi el Rayan is currently represented by two large intensive fish farms (covering 10,500 hectares) and 200 fish cages. Environmental impact assessments for the fish farms were prepared and approved by the Environmental Affairs Agency, and the farms were licensed by the General Authority for Development of Fish Resources. The first farm (covering 420 hectares), developed by a private company through a soft loan of 5 million Egyptian pounds financed by the European Union multi-sector support programme, is already in operation. It includes 50 concrete ponds (400 m2 each) and a full complement of feeding ponds, water distribution channels and Fishermen preparing their nets.


support infrastructure. Construction work on the second fish farm started in 1998, and the farm should enter production very soon. In both farms, water is supplied by gravity directly from the waterway between the two lakes, and then returned to the waterway further downstream.

One possible solution is zoning, with specific sites being left for birds, others for fishing and others for tourist activities, whereas at present fishing is carried on in places with an abundance of birds, and in some cases in places also used by tourists.

The General Authority for Development of Fish Resources issued licences to four investors for a total of 200 fish cages (100 fish per cubic metre of water) in the lower lake. However, the Environmental Affairs Agency did not approve this activity, raising concerns on the impact of fish cages on the wildlife and water quality of the lake. It was agreed that these cages should be moved to the upper lake, but this has not yet been done, although the level of activity is so far being limited to 20 cages (or 10% of those originally planned).

The benthic communities of the Wadi el Rayan lakes must be studied in relation to fisheries and human health in order to obtain a better understanding of the aquatic ecosystems. There are many sites in the lakes where fish are less abundant, probably as a result of anaerobic conditions on the lake bottoms. In addition, the organisms found near or on the lake shores include the Snail Bulinus truncates and the intermediate host Schistosoma, which was recorded in the upper lake in 1986 (Fouda & Saleh, 1988), as well as the blood-sucking insects Tabanus and Siphona spp. in swamp areas. Fishermen as well as tourists should be aware of the consequent health hazards.

Management issues and future outlook The number of species recorded for the lakes has increased from 27 in 1987 (Fouda & Saleh, 1987) to 34 in the present study. Most of these species were introduced, and it is unlikely that more freshwater species will arrive in drainage water to the lakes. The size and weight of fish are still relatively large (for example 25 kg for Nile perch, 10 kg for barbel, several kgs for mullet and sea bass, and over 1 kg for tilapia). This means that fisheries can be developed here if a proper management plan is drawn up, based on scientific data and with well defined goals and strategy. Official fish statistics indicate that fish production increased from 401 tons in 1994 to 1,654 tons in 1999. If these figures are accurate, this sudden increase, especially in 1999, can be explained in terms of the increase in the numbers of fry (about 12 million) being brought in each year, the extension of the fishing season from 7 to 10 months, and the increase in fishing efforts (more fishing boats and fishermen). These measures reflect the political response to constantly growing pressure from fishermen, who seek to increase their earnings without regard for the sustainable use of fish resources. Field observations indicate that there is no scientific basis for extending the fishing season. Fish, especially introduced ones, should be given enough time to grow in the lakes in order to reach a reasonable marketable size. Most of the fish recently caught were small in size, indicating increased fishing efforts, a situation that can lead to a depletion of fish resources within a short period. This indicates a need to revise the number of permitted fishing boats and fishermen, a move that cannot be achieved without determining the maximum sustainable fish yields, which in turn entails a proper dynamic study of the fish population, including natural and fishing mortality, fishing efforts, etc. The biology of the main fish species should also be studied, including distribution, abundance, growth rates and reproductive strategies. There are also other important issues to be considered prior to preparation of a fisheries management plan. First of all the conflict between nature conservation, fisheries and other activities such as tourism must be resolved. 57

Another important issue to be considered is the water quality of the lakes, particularly in relation to fisheries and human health. Inorganic pollution was evident more than ten years ago (Saleh et al., 1988b), although the situation has improved recently (Saleh et al., 2000), except for fairly high levels of cadmium, indicating sewage pollution, probably owing to the growing numbers of tourists. The impact of water pollution on fisheries, aquaculture, wildlife and humans should be evaluated, and full regular water analyses are thus vital. The whole issue of aquaculture in Wadi el Rayan needs to be re-examined. It is not just a matter of obtaining approval for licences from the General Authority for Development of Fish Resources as well as the Environmental Affairs Agency. Aquaculture should be assessed in relation to other activities such as the land reclamation scheme. The water budget must therefore be considered, since it seems that more water will be needed for other activities as well as fish farms. One of the major concerns regarding the fish farm now under construction is that its ponds are being built of earth, which means an increase in organic load, leading to eutrophication of the lower lake. Fortunately, the fish farm already in operation has concrete ponds, so that the impact on water quality is minimal, unless it changes its feeding regime (currently complete fish feed, with no indication of the use of fertilizers). Filtering or sedimentation ponds should be built in both fish farms in front of the junction channel connecting the two lakes. Infectious or parasitic diseases originating in fish farms can have an impact on humans and wildlife, and such risks need to be assessed. There are now 20 fish cages in use in the lower lake, so far with a minimal impact. However, if all the previously anticipated 200 fish cages were allowed to go into operation, there may be an undesirable impact in terms of pollution and eutrophication as a result of the accumulation of detritus and sediment deposits. A monitoring programme for such activities should therefore start immediately. In the meantime, efforts should be made to limit them, as is currently the case. Finally, the preparation of a fisheries management plan should be based on the carrying capacity of the lakes.

About two thousand fishermen are licensed to fish on the Rayan lakes.



12. Management of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Ottavio Novelli The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area (WRPA) was instituted by Prime Ministerial Decree 943 in 1989, in accordance with Law 102 of 1983. The protected area, covering 1,759 km2, is administratively part of the Fayoum Governorate, southwest of Cairo. In March 1998, the Italian Foreign Ministry’s General Directorate for Development Cooperation launched a project to support the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area as one of the components in a broader support programme to the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. The overall aim of the programme was to strengthen the Egyptian capacity to plan and implement adequate measures for the rehabilitation of the natural environment and the protection of resources, leading to higher productivity, reduced migration and improved living conditions in rural areas (DCGD/EEAA, 1996). The overall objective of the WRPA project is to enhance the Protected Area Management Unit’s capacities to plan, design, implement and monitor nature conservation on a sustainable basis by contributing to the preservation and protection of the communities of plants and animals of the Saharan sand dune ecosystem (IUCN, 1998a). The most urgent objectives of the project were to organize the management of Wadi el Rayan, giving technical assistance and financial support to the Protected Area’s Management Unit through a wide range of activities. The Management Unit contributed to the establishment of the WRPA as a Managed Resource Protected Area for the maintenance of biological diversity

A ranger preparing the exhibit of a whale skeleton in the Wadi el Hitan open-air museum. Left - Protected area staff returning from patrol before spending the night at a tented camp in the Wadi el Hitan Fossil Area.

A ranger is monitoring birds from a specially constructed bird-watching hide.


The headquarters of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Management Unit (PAMU).

and other natural values within the Saharan sand dune ecosystem, while also providing a sustainable flow of natural products and services. The WRPA is currently managed by a staff of one director, ten rangers, eight community guards, one accountant, two ticket collectors and six other support staff employed by the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency. The Director plans and manages the activities in Wadi el Rayan in close coordination with the Fayoum Governorate and the National Conservation Sector, which is responsible for all Egyptian protected areas. The rangers are responsible for such daily activities as patrolling, law enforcement, monitoring and environmental education. Each ranger has a degree in a subject related to some aspect of protected area management and is responsible for one aspect of 61

management and for monitoring ecological and economic activities. All the community guards have been recruited from the villages around the protected area thus providing a crucial link with the local communities of the Fayoum oasis. The ticket collectors are in charge of selling entrance tickets to the protected area and providing visitors with basic information on park rules and itineraries. During the first phase of the project, the Management Unit provided all the staff with training in protected area management, ecological monitoring, law enforcement and use of the participatory approach in dealing with the local population.

Management of a protected area of 1,759 km2 requires the capacity to move quickly and be present in the most sensitive zones. One of the project’s priority actions was therefore the provision of the necessary tools for effective protection of the area. Two outposts and two checkpoints were built to guarantee the presence of park staff in key zones of the protected area. Cars, motorcycles and a motorboat were purchased to patrol the less accessible zones. As a result of effective patrolling of the area, the number of police reports of illegal activities dropped from 31 in 1999 to 7 in the first half of 2000, and such illegal activities as poaching and grazing have almost disappeared (PAMU, 2000). Wadi el Rayan has the highest number of visitors of any protected area in Egypt outside South Sinai, and the highest number of Egyptian visitors of any protected area in the country (Baha el Din & Baha el Din, 1999). With a view to encouraging public support for environmental protection of the protected area, the Management Unit is promoting and developing non-intrusive ecotourism in the area. Although the protected area received between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors in 1998, there were no visitor facilities, apart from three old cafeterias and an ecotourism camp near the waterfall. The Management Unit demarcated a network of over 150 kilometres of tracks in order to improve access to the most attractive tourist sites while controlling or restricting access to the more fragile areas. Viewing points and bird-watching and camping sites have been created near lake shores and on the hill overlooking the park. The main tourist area, widely known as the waterfalls area, has been redesigned and its infrastructures relocated, in an attempt to transform it into a recreational area with a strong ecotourism and educational vocation. The area is visited every year by over 150,000 people (IUCN, 2000b). The protected area’s Visitors centre has also been built here, offering ecotourism and educational services, as well as providing a hub for local tour operators. As already stressed, one of the main values of the WRPA is its high educational potential, given its closeness to Cairo. Most Egyptians know of the waterfalls, but at the start of the project few people knew that Wadi el Rayan was a protected area. The Management Unit has to run a finely targeted information and communication campaign to promote the WRPA as a valuable recreational and educational area, linking the conservation of biodiversity with long-term sustainability. The media campaign has been supported by the production of such educational tools as a protected area logo, educational posters, visitor guides, a TV documentary and a web site. As a Managed Resource Protected Area, Wadi el Rayan hosts many economic activities, including a large-scale land reclamation scheme, oil extraction, aquaculture, commercial fishing and tourism. In order to mitigate the impact of such activities the project has tried to involve local stakeholders in sound management practices for sustainable production purposes, helping to meet community needs and contributing to regional and national development. A rigorous monitoring protocol to govern human activities inside the protected area has been set up and applied, all licences have been revised, and pilot

PAMU staff returning from a motorised boat patrol on the lower Rayan lake

collaborative management agreements, based on binding contractual obligations, have been made with selected stakeholders from key sectors (for example tourism and land reclamation). The Management Unit established a management-driven monitoring and evaluation system during the first phase of the project as a crucial tool to support the planning and management of the protected area. This system tracks the main trends in biodiversity resources and their use. The information generated is directly applicable to planning and management activities and contributes to the regulation of human and economic activities inside the WRPA. 62

As part of their routine assignments, WRPA staff carry out monitoring activities as required, under the coordination of senior staff and with the assistance of external consultants. Monitoring activities in the area are based on four components (IUCN, 1999b, 2000b, 2001a). Habitat and land use. Broad-scale habitat and land use patterns are analysed in order to map and detect changes in major habitats (for example, connectivity between vegetation clusters in the desert) and levels of human pressure, and as a basis for the establishment of a zoning system in the WRPA. The final output is adapted for a PC platform, using the Geographic Information System at WRPA headquarters. Monitoring of biodiversity. A review of publications on the WRPA indicated that the latest surveys of biodiversity in the area had been conducted over ten years ago (Saleh, 1998). Specialist inputs were mobilized during the second year of the project in order to update these baseline studies. Surveying procedures were standardized and transect walks for counting mammal tracks were implemented in the various habitats. Bird checklists are regularly updated and the seasonal abundance of a selection of migratory and resident species is monitored, as well as the status of the main breeding sites. The Management Unit started boat line transects for counting the commonest species of water birds. The abundance of the main species of fish is recorded by inspecting catches when fish are landed.


The main gate to the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area.

PAMU staff inspecting the state of a desert track in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area.

An estimated 150,000 people visit Wadi el Rayan each year.

Monitoring of environmental and economic impact. The main objective here is to monitor activities in human impact zones in order to ensure compliance with rules laid down in existing licences. Every three months Management Unit staff conduct site inspections of all economic activities, using remote sensing, photo monitoring and landscape modification monitoring (in the case of cultivation, settlements, infrastructures, etc.). Sampling stations have been established in the two lakes and in the canal downstream of the outlet from the fish farms, in order to monitor the impact of fish farming activities. The production, management and removal of waste (particularly non-biodegradable solids) from the protected area have also been closely monitored, to ensure observance of the rules laid down in each operating licence.

Management effectiveness. The effectiveness of the management of the protected area has been monitored, using standardized reporting methods, measuring achievements against timelinked targets, and employing indicators drawn from annual work plans, such as staff performance, the number of patrol and police reports, the maintenance and use of vehicles, and visitor management. If conservation of the WRPA ecosystem is to be sustainable, the Management Unit’s efforts to manage the area must receive the support not only of the Ministry of Environmental Affairs but also of the general Egyptian public, which must see the area as its own heritage and as worthy of conservation. 64

The future sustainable development and the wise use of nature


13. Development and monitoring of economic activities Gamal Gomaa M. Medani

Introduction The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area Management Unit (PAMU) has taken several steps to mitigate the impact of economic activities, as well as to establish a comprehensive monitoring system, ensure compliance with regulations laid down in existing licences and provide guidelines for their issuing, renewal and amendment (IUCN, 2000b). Monitoring activities are carried out by trained Wadi el Rayan Protected Area (WRPA) staff as part of their routine work, under the coordination of senior staff and with the assistance of local and/or international experts as required. A routine monitoring mechanism is important in order to allow collected information to be organized in a detailed, practical way. The system includes: (a) site inspection every six months in order to locate any new infrastructure; (b) photo-monitoring every three months in order to document any changes in the impact of the various activities on the landscape; photographs are a good way of documenting changes to sites and may also be valuable for legal purposes and are likely to be of more widespread public interest than simply presenting data; for example the major habitat damage and destruction at Medawara Mountain in January 2000 during the Paris–Dakar Rally was documented with photographs, allowing the Environmental Affairs Agency to ask for 4,750,000 Egyptian pounds as compensation; (c) waste management inspection every three months in order to monitor landscape pollution; however, the major impact is connected with solid waste and nonbiodegradable waste such as plastic bottles and bags; (d) specific monitoring and evaluation of individual activities, for example water analysis in the case of aquaculture activities.

The intensive fish farm in Wadi el Rayan produces valuable food resources which help meet the increasing demands of urban populations as far away as Cairo.

Due to the presence of important economic activities in the area, the WRPA has been listed as a Managed Resource Protected Area, Category VI (IUCN, 1998a). The various economic activities can be listed as follows in decreasing order of environmental impact: land reclamation, aquaculture, oil extraction, ecotourism, fishing and salt extraction. Each infrastructure has been detected using the Global Positioning System (GPS) and then located on the map of economic activities using the Geographic Information System (GIS). Regular monitoring of these activities allows ongoing updating of the data on the map.

Previous double page. Ten years ago Wadi el Rayan was a remote desert region inhabited by few people, but over the last years, there has been rapid development and transformation - in some cases threatening the very nature and beauty of Wadi el Rayan. In 1998 the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency and the Italian Government launched a project to strengthen the management and infrastructure of the Protected Area. One of the greatest challenges is to try and regulate development in a way that supports economic growth, while maintaining the integrity of the area through the wise and sustainable use of its natural resources. Traditional fishing is a vital source of income for local communities but may be endangered by increasing human and economic pressure on the Protected Area. Left - Mechanically rotating wheels to oxygenate the water in the fishponds of the intensive fish farm in Wadi el Rayan.

New forms of aquaculture are being tested and licensed: a concrete pond and distribution canal in the intensive fish farm in Wadi el Rayan.


Land reclamation The reclamation of agricultural land began in Wadi el Rayan in 1984. The first stage was landscape preparation, followed by development of infrastructure including roads, channels and irrigation pumps. All this, together with the subsequent planting of olive trees ready for settlers, was undertaken by the Al-Beheira Company, under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Land Reclamation Sector. Land reclamation in Wadi el Rayan was planned as one component of a broader strategy to settle a total of 10,000 households in six sites in Middle and Upper Egypt by the year 2000. The Wadi el Rayan site represents an important element in this strategy, being the second largest site for settlement and the largest in Middle Egypt. Irrigation water is extracted from the upper of the two Rayan lakes at a rate of about 1.8 m3/sec for 5 hours daily during the winter months and 11 to 15 hours daily during the summer months (IUCN, 2000b). Both organic and inorganic fertilizers are used on the Wadi el Rayan reclaimed land. The key environmental impact is due to the landscape modification associated with the transformation of the character and physical qualities of the environment. Land reclamation, agricultural activities and the establishment of built environments have so far resulted in the reclamation of a total of 2,600 hectares in Wadi el Rayan. Land reclamation scheme: part of the main pumping station extracting water from the upper Rayan lake.

Apart from specific problems of waste, the establishment of a large human population entails a distinct threat to the environment. The presence of incidental rubbish and noise can disturb wildlife, especially in ecologically sensitive localities. At present no mechanism exists for the disposal of nonbiodegradable solid waste. The current practice is to dump waste in an open area on the outskirts of the village, from whence a prevailing wind often carries it elsewhere in the protected area. Some solid waste is burned, but the usual result of this practice is that fragments of charred material are carried away by the wind. The accumulation of rubbish has also attracted a large pack of feral dogs to the area. Consequently, the desert surrounding the land reclamation areas is likely to be increasingly covered with garbage in the future (NSCE, 2000). A point on the top of Medawara Mountain has been selected as a photo-monitoring position in order to cover all reclamation areas and record developments in landscape modification. Water is currently being extracted from the upper Rayan lake at a rate equivalent to about one-fifth of the inflow rate. The water balance of the lakes could be threatened if either the extraction rate were to be increased owing to an increased water demand or the rate of inflow into the lake were to be reduced. 69

A drip-irrigation system delivers water to individual plants in the land reclamation scheme.

Reclamation and farming of land inside the protected area leads to the degradation of habitats and the elimination of species. However, when local people carry out the farming in order to supply their own basic needs, it is very hard to stop, and such a move may prove counter-productive. Land reclamation inside the protected area is a reality, and biological diversity protection is not ethically against development, but favours the wise use of natural resources. Cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture’s Land Reclamation Sector and the Environmental Affairs Agency has thus been stepped up recently, with meetings and dialogue taking place in order to decide on the best way of supporting development while mitigating the environmental impact of land reclamation in the protected area. The following achievements can be recognized: (i) in view of the great demand to reclaim more land (1,800 hectares) and settle more people (10,000) near the existing villages, and also reclaim about 336 hectares near the main gate of the protected area, the area’s management unit has suggested a zoning scheme; the main purpose of this scheme is to avoid the extension of reclamation near the most ecologically fragile area around the springs, while also avoiding the scattering of reclaimed land in different locations inside the protected area; (ii) the land reclamation authority had proposed that farm animals should be reared inside the villages, but this proposal has been withdrawn; (iii) solid waste is to be put to the best use in coming years, with a high proportion of that produced by the settlements being composted and returned to settlers as fertilizer for the cultivation of plants not destined for human consumption (NSCE, 2000); (iv) organic farming is being promoted, so that the Ministry of Agriculture and settlers will adopt environmentally friendly production techniques. Aquaculture Intensive fish farming There is now only one intensive fish farm in the protected area (initially funded by the European Union). The fish bred are tilapia and mullet. A total of 40 staff is employed. The farm is located at the beginning of the channel between the two lakes and uses 120 hectares of the licensed 420 hectares, with 90 ponds occupying 36,000 m3, pumping 1.8 m3/sec and using 2 million cubic metres of water monthly from the upper lake. Each pond produces 4.5 to 5 tons of fish per season (between April and October). If left unregulated, the main potential impact of the fish farm would be related to: (i) water consumption and waste water disposal; (ii) some health impact related to the risk of pollution of the lake in front of the main visitor area downstream of the farm; (iii) changes in the local desert landscape as a result of construction of the farm, even if a much smaller area than the originally envisaged 420 hectares will be used; (iv) an impact on water availability, if a large amount of water is going to be used and does not revert to the channel (IUCN, 1999a); (v) potential de-oxygenation and toxicity from the use of hormones and chemicals (formaline, malquite and potassium permanganate) added in small concentrations when needed; the The distribution canals delivering irrigation water to the plantations in the land reclamation scheme.


main problem could concern the concentration of ammonium and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen); (vi) apart from waste material derived from natural processes and the wastage of feed, effluents from an aquaculture farm may contain the residues of chemicals used to disinfect the farm, control pests and predators or treat diseases; hormones may be used for induced breeding or sex reversal, as well as anaesthetics to facilitate the handling and transfer of fish; in the case of this particular fish farm, the effect of the discharge of chemicals is not considered to be significant, since the discharge is only occasional and in low concentrations. Extensive fish farming An extensive fish farming area of 546 hectares has been licensed for 25 years in the WRPA. The project envisages the building of 200 ponds, making 100 farms, each composed of one nursery and two ponds. A permanent staff of 100 farmers will be employed. The water intake from the upper lake will be 2 m3/sec. The species bred will be Oreochromis nilotica and the estimated productivity should be 800 tons per year. Construction started in February 1999, and production is expected to start in the second half of 2002. The construction of artificial wetlands to minimize the expected environmental impact has been approved by the Fayoum Aquaculture Cooperative, and the monitoring plan will be similar to that for the existing intensive fish farm. Fish cages The Egyptian General Authority for Development of Fish Resources has authorized the establishment of 200 fish cages in the lower lake, occupying an area of 11,250 m2. Four investors are involved in the project. There are 20 cages in operation so far (ranging from 40 to 250 m3 in size), each producing between 0.5 and 0.75 tons twice a year. Given the low number of cages the impact can be considered minimal but if the anticipated 200 cages were allowed to go into operation there would be an undesirable impact in terms of pollution and eutrophication (see Fouda & Fouda, Chapter 11). Oil extraction The Qarun Oil Company (affiliated to the American Apache Company) began extraction activities in the WRPA in May 1997, where a full environmental impact assessment has been applied. There are five productive wells and two soon to enter production, with a staff of 25 working a shift system. Oil production is included on the black list under Environmental Affairs Agency regulations, owing to its high potential environmental impact, particularly in connection with industrial waste material. Following an official request from the Environmental Affairs Agency, the company is therefore now removing waste in a regular manner. In addition to routine patrolling, three-monthly waste monitoring seeks to minimize environmental impact. 71

Oil exploration and extraction activities in the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area.

upper lake, lower lake and the connecting channel, in addition to an estimated 200 non-licensed fishermen. There are strict regulations on the number of commercial fishing boats operating on the lakes. Many different fish - including tilapia, Nile perch, cat fish, etc. - have made their own way into the lakes, while other species, such as the grey mullet, have been intentionally introduced (NIFI, 1988).

Local craftsmen find an outlet for their products in the main visitor area of Wadi el Rayan.

The company has subscribed to a plan to adopt systems and procedures aimed at reducing the risk of oil leaks or accidental releases.

Salt extraction The traditional extraction of rock salt is practised within the WRPA by groups of 5 to 25 workers operating from temporary camps in various locations on the north-western side of the protected area. So long as this activity is carried on in the present manner and does not expand to such ecologically fragile zones as the Springs and Wadi el Hitan areas, its impact is considered negligible (IUCN, 2000b). This activity is now being monitored in order to pinpoint the work sites best suited to protecting the landscape. A proposal to treat the salt before being sold is a major priority in order to allow maximum use of the resource without putting consumers at risk. The following guidelines should be considered in the future management of salt extraction activities: (i) environmental degradation and its causes at all work locations must be identified, reduced and monitored; (ii) programmes to conserve resources and control waste generation and disposal must be drawn up, implemented and monitored, in order to minimize environmental impact; (iii) the necessary permits must be obtained before activities are initiated; (iv) all necessary notifications and reports regarding the environmental impact must be submitted to the Protected Area’s Management Unit.

Ecotourism In recent years, a new type of nature-based tourism has been gaining momentum, with more tourists seeking a new kind of experience that allows them to escape the hustle and bustle of the modern world and enjoy the beauties of nature. In the WRPA the development of ecotourism has been encouraged through the following schemes: (i) three cafeterias have been built for recreation purposes, as well as one tourist camp (private), mainly for ecotourism activities, all in the most visited area near the waterfalls; all these facilities have toilets served by septic tanks; (ii) one camp site has been established near the bird-watching site overlooking the upper lake; (iii) three ecolodges are to be built in the most strategic and beautiful areas of the park; there is weekly monitoring of tourists in terms of age, income, education level and nationality; (iv) a Visitors centre with audio-visual facilities has been built, illustrating the natural history of Wadi el Rayan over the past 40 million years and reflecting its present importance as a protected area. Fisheries One of the most important economic activities is fisheries, with both lakes being stocked with a variety of species. In order to allow the fish to grow and reproduce, fishing is permitted for only seven months a year, from midSeptember to mid-April. According to information collected by WRPA staff, there are 800, 924 and 53 officially licensed fishermen, respectively in the The beach in the main visitor area of Wadi el Rayan on a busy day.



14. Tourism and recreation Mindy Baha el Din Protected areas and tourism in Egypt As prime locations of natural and cultural interest, protected areas are tourist attractions drawing millions of visitors worldwide. While over 1,250,000 visitors visited protected areas in Egypt in 2000, the country has yet to realize the full tourist potential of its national network of such areas, for less than a third of the 21 protected areas so far established have visitor facilities. Tourism is one of the leading sectors in the national economy (TCOE, 1997). Over five million foreign tourists visited Egypt in 1999, and ten million per annum are expected in the coming years. The national tourism market is also growing along with the population, and the potential is enormous. Economic development and prosperity have led greater numbers of Egyptians to travel and holiday within their own country. Tourism in Wadi el Rayan Wadi el Rayan is the only protected area near Cairo that has been developed for tourism. Initially, the park received few visitors, since it could only be reached by four-wheel drive vehicle, but the construction of an asphalted road then made the area accessible. Broadcasts on national television showing the waterfall brought Wadi el Rayan to the attention of the Egyptian public. Visitor facilities were subsequently established, and the protected area’s popularity has been growing as awareness of the area has spread by word of mouth. Today, the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area is a major tourist attraction for the Fayoum Governorate. Although agriculture is the primary economic sector in the Fayoum area, tourism is being actively promoted as a way of expanding and diversifying the local economy, which has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the nation (NSCE, 2000). Some 150,000 tourists - most of them from Cairo, Fayoum and other nearby localities - visited Wadi el Rayan in 1999, and numbers are increasing each year (Baha el Din & Baha el Din, 1999). Wadi el Rayan has the most visitors of any protected area in Egypt outside South Sinai and the Red Sea. Over 90% of the visitors to Wadi el Rayan are Egyptian nationals, the largest proportion of any protected area in the country. Visits from Egyptians reflect a changing trend in the national tourist market. Egyptians have traditionally avoided the desert, but the lack of public parks and recreation areas in the Nile Valley and improvements in the road network and other infrastructures have encouraged them to explore tourist destinations further afield. Between 5 and 10% of the visitors to Wadi el Rayan are foreign nationals, most of them expatriates working in the country. Only a small number of foreigners on holiday in Egypt visit the protected area, since it is off the beaten track for most conventional tourists, who have limited time and come mainly for the antiquities and the Red Sea - although Wadi el Rayan does have an appeal for the smaller specialized tourist market, especially desert safaris and bird-watching tours. However, security restrictions imposed during the mid-1990s have acted as a brake on the development of foreign tourism to the protected area. Left - An isolated camping site in Wadi el Hitan.

A quiet evening gazing at the moon.

Tourism to Wadi el Rayan tends to be seasonal, with a peak period during the cooler months between September and April. The vast majority of visitors come on day trips, with less than 10% spending the night in the area. Visitors come mainly on weekends and public holidays; for example, over 25,000 entered the protected area during the one-day holiday of Sham el Neseem in 2000. Most visitors come in small family parties or in groups of friends, but larger groups from schools, companies and other organizations also visit the area. Wadi el Rayan has a high rate of repeat tourism. In a tourist survey in 1999, over half those interviewed said that they had visited the area before, with many saying that they came often (Baha el Din & Baha el Din, 1999). One of the main reasons for the protected area’s popularity is its proximity to Cairo and other urban centres. Interviewees said that recreation and relaxation were the primary reasons for visiting the protected area, adding that they came to escape the crowds, stress and pollution of urban life. Foreigners in particular commented that the spectacular scenery and undeveloped wilderness were among the protected area’s main appeals. The chief tourist attractions in Wadi el Rayan are the lakes and the desert. The lower lake and the waterfall receive the most visitors. (The waterfall is the protected area’s most famous landmark; it is the main tourist area and is where cafeterias and other visitor facilities have been established.) The desert, with its unique geological formations, history, wildlife and fossils, also draws visitors. The number of tourists visiting the desert is much smaller, since off-road vehicles are needed, but it tends to attract higher-quality tourism. 74

protected area every day in the high season. Other beneficiaries are the tour operators who organize trips to Wadi el Rayan. Although tourism is on the whole beneficial, unless it is properly managed it can have detrimental effects on the very resources that attract tourists. Excessive, uncontrolled tourism is one of the greatest concerns at Wadi el Rayan, with tourist-related problems including litter, loud music, illegal hunting, swimming in prohibited areas, removal of artefacts and fossils, and vehicles driving off the designated routes. Regulating tourism is one of the main functions of the Protected Area’s Management Unit. A multi-management approach is employed, whereby specific tourist activities are allowed in certain locations in the protected area, with visitation restricted in sensitive areas, such as the Springs area. The actions adopted to control tourism include the dissemination of visitor regulations, regular patrols of tourist areas and the establishment of infrastructures to mitigate the environmental impact of visitors.

The new cafeterias in the main visitor area of Wadi el Rayan.

Patterns of tourism to Wadi el Rayan reflect cultural differences. Being highly gregarious and unaccustomed to nature, Egyptians tend to engage in “beach” tourism and congregate in the waterfall area, where they patronize the cafeterias, have picnics, engage in sports, fish, swim and take boat rides. Foreigners, on the other hand, along with a small but growing number of upwardly mobile Egyptian professionals, avoid the crowds and visit the remoter sections of the protected area. These individuals are more outdoors oriented camping, hiking, watching birds, viewing fossils and photographing nature. The benefits and constraints of tourism Tourism can complement management objectives and bolster conservation efforts, by offering visitors the opportunity to experience and learn about nature. For most Egyptians, Wadi el Rayan is the first protected area they have ever visited, so it serves as an important example. Tourism in turn provides the financial means to manage protected areas. Visitors are charged an entrance (or “user”) fee, while businesses purchase concessions to operate inside the area. Such income should cover maintenance costs and the provision of visitor services, thus ensuring sustainability. The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area also generates revenue for the tourist industry and the local economy. While the tourist facilities in the park are the primary beneficiaries, businesses in the Fayoum area also benefit. According to the managers of the hotels on Lake Qarun, they have guests visiting the 75

Ecotourism development One of the protected area’s main objectives has been the development of nonintrusive ecotourism. Nature-based tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world tourist market, with protected areas becoming major ecotourism destinations. Ecotourism development has been advocated in the national tourism strategy as a means of diversifying the nation’s tourism product, and has also been included in the national biodiversity strategy as a means of promoting the sustainable development of natural resources (NBU 1997). Ecotourism development in Wadi el Rayan is being promoted to strengthen and enhance protected area management by encouraging more environmentally sound and responsible visits. The aim has been to expand the numbers of ecotourists to the protected area, make existing tourism more “ecotourism oriented” and educational while increasing benefits for the local community. Ecotourism is being fostered through the development of facilities and materials. The protected area has one of the few ecolodges in the country, a non-permanent construction of reeds and other natural materials. Other planned or already constructed visitor amenities include campgrounds, picnic areas, bird-watching hides and nature trails. A Visitors centre has been built near the waterfalls, intended as the main vehicle to teach Egyptian visitors about the protected area (Baha el Din & Baha el Din, 2000). Educational and promotional materials have been produced for visitors as well as a website, which will act as an ecotourism marketing tool. The PAMU is examining ways of enhancing local community benefit from tourism. Only a few locals at present earn income from the protected area. It is hoped that ecotourism development will create jobs and other opportunities for the local community - working as guides, operating boat rides, producing handicrafts, and providing other goods and services to tourists.

Challenges facing tourist development One of the greatest challenges is how to allow economic development without damaging the natural resources of Wadi el Rayan. Development is occurring inside the protected area in spite of its status. Unless properly managed and regulated, activities such as agriculture, fish farming, human settlement and petroleum extraction can have an adverse impact on the environment, reducing the amenity value for tourism. For example, there are concerns that the fish farms will degrade the quality of the water in the lower lake, the most important tourist area, and that the expansion of agriculture and human settlements will create a host of environmental problems and diminish Wadi el Rayan’s attractiveness to visitors. Egypt still needs to integrate protected areas more fully into its national development strategy and give greater priority to maintaining natural habitats and landscapes for tourism. Wadi el Rayan is a classic example, for tourism is probably a more economically and environmentally sound land-use than agriculture or fish farming, especially given the whole Fayoum area’s limited fresh water resources.

Visitors from Cairo enjoy a boat-ride near the waterfalls.

Another challenge is how to address mounting pressure to develop tourist facilities inside the protected area. Wall-to-wall tourist development has become the norm in Egypt, but protected areas should be developed in a different manner, in keeping with their mandate to preserve nature. More facilities are not always better. A recent tourism study of the Fayoum area recommended increased use of the existing hotels around Lake Qarun, which are currently operating below their capacity, rather than building new hotels (NSCE, 2000). The Protected Area’s Management Unit is studying tourist development in the context of Egypt’s long-term development needs. It intends to formulate a master plan for tourism based on the carrying capacity of the area. This plan would identify appropriate locations for ecolodges and other tourist facilities. It is recognized that increasing the numbers of visitors and facilities can have a negative impact, which means that development must be carefully planned. The future of Wadi el Rayan and other protected areas as places for tourism and recreation depends on support for measures to ensure the protection and sustainable management of these areas. Conservation today for benefit tomorrow is the cornerstone upon which protected areas are based!



15. Future plans for the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area G.H. Mattravers Messana & Hossam Kamel General context The Wadi el Rayan Protected Area (WRPA) enjoys the highest number of visitors of any protected area in Egypt outside the South Sinai. Some 150,000 people visit it each year, the vast majority being Egyptians. Demand for the WRPA as a recreational destination is likely to continue to rise, given the crowded conditions prevailing in many urban areas in Lower Egypt. Greater Cairo, with an estimated population of 16 million, is one of the world’s largest cities and is situated less than 100 kilometres away. Expected sustained economic growth in the region will increasingly give city-dwellers the means to satisfy their rising requirement for recreation in open and clean spaces. Against this background, Wadi el Rayan can meet multiple needs, acting as (i) a gateway to the Western Desert, conserving a representative sample of its biodiversity, (ii) an open-air laboratory to test conservation techniques and train future managers of biodiversity, and (iii) a platform for environmental education, targeting the general Egyptian public, while stimulating support for conservation of the protected area. Since establishment of the WRPA in 1989, its management has been hampered by the lack of sufficient staff and resources. This has led to indiscriminate hunting, resulting in severe losses of biodiversity, particularly among the larger mammals formerly distributed throughout the area. Conservative estimates currently put the number of species at 49 plants, 28 mammals, 19 reptiles, and 34 fish, as well as a large number of invertebrates. An estimated 168 bird species are currently listed in Wadi el Rayan. The artificial lakes have become important wintering grounds for waterbirds, a fact that recently led BirdLife International to designate the WRPA as one of the 34 Important Bird Areas in Egypt, fulfilling its international criteria (Baha el Din, 1999). The marine fossil deposits in Wadi el Hitan and Garet Gehannam, which are now considered as palaeontological sites of international importance, represent another key asset of the WRPA. Historically, Wadi el Rayan has been a major crossroads for travellers between the Nile Valley and the oases of the Western Desert, as testified by the remains of human settlements from the ancient Egyptian and Graeco-Roman eras found throughout the region. In modern times, Wadi el Rayan has been generally considered a virtually uninhabited desert oasis. Now, however, the main threat to the effective long-term protection of the WRPA is seen to be the development of uncontrolled economic activities within its boundaries. These activities include large-scale land reclamation schemes, major oil extraction operations, rapidly expanding aquaculture, commercial fishing and tourism, as well as human settlement in highly sensitive areas such as previously undisturbed habitats used by gazelles and other key species (IUCN, 1998a, b). The institutional context is currently being affected by a period of restructuring within the main administrative bodies responsible for environmental management in Egypt. Changes within the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) will have important implications for the status and functions of the Protected Area’s Management Unit (PAMU). Its relations will be redefined with EEAA headquarters, the Nature Conservation Sector (NCS) and crucially, Left - Primary school children from the Wadi el Rayan land reclamation scheme.

A farmer in the Wadi el Rayan land reclamation scheme.


A Visitors centre devoted to environmental education has been constructed in Wadi el Rayan with the aim of raising public awareness and to help bring key environmental issues within the public domain.

with the decentralized EEAA structures, such as regional branches, and the smaller local units recently established in the main cities and centres of the Fayoum governorate.

focusing on the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable economic production, but has also taken into account the specific character of the WRPA by contributing to its development as a prime recreational and educational area.

Establishing the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area In March 1998, the EEAA and the General Directorate for Development Cooperation of the Italian Foreign Ministry initiated a three-year project to support the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area. The overall objective was to enhance EEAA capabilities to plan, design, implement and monitor nature conservation on a sustainable basis by contributing to the preservation and protection of the communities of plants and animals of the Saharan Sand Dune Ecosystem. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) is participating in the project in an advisory capacity and is mandated to provide technical support in accordance with IUCN guidelines and strategies related to the sustainable management of protected areas.

Since the start of the WRPA project, reports have consistently highlighted the legal, economic and political constraints limiting the capacity of the EEAA to regulate human activities within the protected area and cautioned that if the purpose of investments in Wadi el Rayan as a protected area is to remain justified, the role of the EEAA in its management must be reasserted and economic activities rapidly brought under control (IUCN, 1998c, d; 1999b; Biondi, 1999). As the first phase of the project reaches completion, the negative trend has indeed been reversed and some key results have been achieved.

The WRPA has been defined as a Managed Resource Protected Area or Type VI area according to current IUCN/WCPA categories, although its closeness to Cairo and its unusually high potential as a recreational and educational area are more in line with Type II or V areas. The approach adopted by the project has therefore conformed to the management objectives of Type VI areas by 79

The WRPA has been firmly established as a Managed Resource Protected Area through: (i) the recruitment and training of personnel, including a full complement of rangers, community guards and support staff; (ii) the construction of headquarters, outposts and other essential infrastructure elements, and the procurement of basic communications, technical and scientific equipment; and (iii) the strenghtening of an operational Management Unit to ensure the permanent field presence of the EEAA within the WRPA.

The development of non-intrusive ecotourism and environmental education has been initiated through: (i) the development of basic ecotourism infrastructures, visitor facilities, interpretation services and materials; (ii) the production and dissemination of a first generation of environmental education tools; and (iii) the implementation of a targeted information and communication campaign promoting the WRPA as a valuable recreational and educational area, linking the conservation of biodiversity with its long-term well-being. The project has contributed to a participatory approach in the management of the WRPA by involving local stakeholders in: (i) the design of a regulatory mechanism ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources in the WRPA, based on sound management practices, the application of rigorous monitoring protocols, the revision of existing licences and the strict enforcement of the regulations stipulated therein; (ii) the implementation of pilot collaborative management agreements with selected stakeholders from key sectors (for example ecotourism), based on binding contractual obligations and clear monitoring procedures; and (iii) the establishment of an environmental investment plan for the protected area as a basis for the future licensing of environmentally compatible economic activities. The capacity for future management of the protected area has been further strengthened through: (i) the design and implementation of a comprehensive management-driven monitoring and evaluation system that tracks the main trends in biodiversity resources and their utilization, environmental and economic impact and management effectiveness; and (ii) the formulation of detailed management guidelines for the WRPA based on information produced by the GIS and monitoring systems established by the PAMU, and extensive interaction and negotiation with key stakeholders in the protected area. The way ahead The scope of the future management of the protected area should be widened on the basis of lessons learned during the first phase of the WRPA project. The PAMU should take the lead among stakeholders in the introduction and monitoring of environmentally compatible economic activities within the protected area, while links should be strengthened between the PAMU and other central and decentralized EEAA structures. A provisional and non-exhaustive set of key outputs and activities for the future management of the Wadi el Rayan Protected Area is summarised below - as originally outlined in IUCN (2000a) and later updated in IUCN (2001b). 1. A stable institutional framework is established through the enhancement of PAMU administrative, technical and financial sustainability. (1.1) Continue the recruitment as permanent EEAA personnel, of the full complement of PAMU rangers, community guards and support staff, as specified in the approved management guidelines for the WRPA developed during the first phase of the WRPA project. Wadi el Rayan provides open and clean spaces for city dwellers coming from afar.


(1.2) Based on EEAA regulations, formalise the structure of the PAMU management system with a clear definition of individual duties and responsibilities, deployment and accommodation in the PA, salary scale and performance-based incentive system, rules on leave, welfare and discipline, future career prospects, etc. (1.3) Build on existing management guidelines to develop and apply a comprehensive operations manual regulating all key PAMU administrative functions such as: (i) staff recruitment and management of human resources; (ii) estate development and management; (iii) procurement, maintenance and inventories of vehicles, tools and equipment; (iv) financial control and records, budget, bank accounts, financial statements and audits. (1.4) Strenghten and formalise PAMU law enforcement capabilities through routine patrolling and monitoring, standardised site inspection and environmental auditing protocols, clear powers of arrest and police reporting and the implementation of legal procedures against offenders. (1.5) Systematic implementation, reporting and dissemination of results based on the monitoring and evaluation methods developed during the first phase of the project, tracking the main trends in biodiversity resources and their utilisation, environmental and economic impact and management effectiveness. (1.6) Provide further specialized training for PAMU personnel including formal courses, on the job-training, study tours and overseas attachments. (1.7) Review and update the existing WRPA management plan in order to establish comprehensive guidelines to be implemented after termination of the project, based on sound scientific, managerial and economic factors. (1.8) Under the coordination of the NCS, ensure the institutionalisation of appropriate financial mechanisms to cover the long-term recurrent costs of the PAMU, based on a suitable mix of government funding, fee-collection, licensing and other income generating activities. (1.9) Rehabilitate and expand the PAs infrastructure to reflect management needs, providing necessary space for offices, laboratories, living quarters for personnel, etc., and enhancing visiting opportunities; supply new vehicles and equipment rendering the PAMU fully operational for several years. 2. Key stakeholders are involved in the collaborative management of the protected area. (2.1) Negotiate and implement effective collaborative management agreements by building on the participatory process initiated during the first phase of the project, involving key stakeholder communities present within the WRPA, particularly the land reclamation scheme and the local fishing community.

(2.2) Identify and contribute to the implementation of pilot biodiversity conservation initiatives based on a community-led participatory process, linked to the foreseen development of an eco-centre in the periphery of the WRPA and of associated ecotourism services (see activity No. 3.7). (2.3) Incorporate specific collaborative management commitments within the new or revised licences regulating private sector economic activities within the WRPA, particularly oil extraction, aquaculture and tourism and ensure their implementation and long-term monitoring. (2.4) Pursuit of public relations and communication activities initiated during the first phase, aiming to influence and improve the accountability of stakeholder communities, licensed private sector operators, policy makers and other key players. 3. The ecotourism sector is developed and diversified. (3.1) Develop and publish best practice guidelines for the development and diversification of ecotourism facilities and services in the WRPA, based on the Environmental Investment Plan developed during the first phase of the project. (3.2) Design and conduct training programmes to sensitise tourism operators, potential investors and other concerned parties about desert conservation and environmentally sound, sustainable desert tourism. (3.3) In close co-ordination with Governorate authorities and the security forces, design and implement an improved visitor security system for the WRPA, while phasing out the present escort-based system, incompatible with the development of genuine ecotourism facilities and services. (3.4) Assist in the formulation and negotiation of new licences according to best practice guidelines for the WRPA, while engaging potential investors in contributing to visitor management and protection and the maintenance and improvement of visitor facilities. (3.5) Monitor the establishment of new ecotourism facilities ensuring full compliance with guidelines set out in the licences and related Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). (3.6) Facilitate the involvement of the local communities through (i) technical and financial support to private sector initiatives, (ii) training for interpretation and guiding services and (iii) involving community members in the management and improvement of existing facilities and services. (3.7) In close collaboration with TDA, contribute to ongoing ecotourism initiatives in the Fayoum governorate, by examining the possibility of jointly supporting the establishment of an eco-centre in the periphery of the WRPA (e.g. Tunis), as a simple facility, run by a local NGO, offering several ecotourism modules (e.g. crafts, rural life, cycling tours, etc.), which may be linked to ecotourism facilities and services available in the WRPA.

81 Right - The future well-being of Wadi el Rayan will depend on the conservation and wise use of its natural resources.

(3.8) In collaboration with the private sector, TDA and other key stakeholders (e.g. SCA and the Medinet Madi management team), design and implement a finely-targeted marketing strategy to promote the WRPA as an ecotourism destination at local, national and international levels.

environmental data and standardised site inspection and environmental auditing protocols; (iii) effectively implement legal procedures against offenders.

4. Eco-development is supported by enhancing the management capacity of the local Environmental Office in the Fayoum Governorate

(4.5) Complement and support operational links between the Environmental Office in Fayoum and EEAA headquarters for the assessment and monitoring of the impact of economic activities in compliance with protected area objectives, regulations and management guidelines.

(4.1) Support the ongoing decentralisation of EEAA functions by providing technical and logistical assistance to the Environmental Office in the Fayoum Governorate. (4.2) Focus enabling and training activities on selected staff in order to strengthen the capacity of the office to exchange information and co-ordinate activities with technical, administrative and security services of the Fayoum Governorate, while optimising the capacity of the Environmental Office to provide effective backstopping for the PAMU. (4.3) Clarify and define the functions of the Environmental Office in implementing procedures for the licensing and regulation of economic activities in and around protected areas. (4.4) Reinforce the Environmental Office in order to (i) adequately handle legislative and institutional matters; (ii) design and operate a simple environmental monitoring system based on the regular collection of

(4.6) Sensitise the private and public sectors to innovate and incorporate emerging best practices from biodiversity conservation initiatives by developing resource materials and hosting local workshops. (4.7) Negotiate and sign memoranda of understanding with partner agencies, establishing a joint programmatic framework for conservation and community development interventions ensuring that conservation objectives are fully incorporated into regional development plans, including infrastructure and sector plans. (4.8) Capitalise on intermediate results in the WRPA by replicating appropriate activities in the Qarun Protected Area, also under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Office. 5. Wadi el Rayan is promoted as a leading site for environmental education. (5.1) Enhance the functions of the WRPA Visitor centre as the focal point for the interpretation of the Wadi el Rayan ecosystem through specialized on thejob training of: (i) selected PAMU staff in updating displays and information materials, (ii) local NGOs in providing guided visits and professional presentations for different target audiences; (ii) private operators in supplying guided educational field visits of the WRPA and other services. (5.2) Establish an “environmental school� in the WRPA, including simple accommodation and teaching facilities, to be used as a platform for a wide range of field-based environmental education modules, complementing local and national formal education programs. (5.3) Design and initiate a management-oriented research program in the WRPA by formalising links with selected national and international organisms and universities and facilitating field work in the protected area for students and researchers. (5.4) Support and intensify ongoing PAMU Information, Education, Communication (IEC) activities targeting visitors, students, stakeholders and decision-makers, by emphasising the natural and cultural value of Wadi el Rayan while consistently incorporating sustainable development issues in all formal and non-formal IEC tools and activities.


Wadi el Rayan provides a gateway to the Western desert of Egypt - a most precious and fragile asset of Humanity’s natural and cultural heritage.

6. The integration of the recreational and educational functions of the Wadi el Rayan and Medinet Madi areas. This will be achieved by closely coordinating activities with the DGCS funded cultural heritage project to be implemented concurrently with the second phase of the WRPA project in the Medinet Madi archaeological site. (6.1) Demarcate and establish a suitably signposted track, physically linking the main visitor area of the WRPA with the Medinet Madi archeaological site. (6.2) Design and realise complementary exhibits and open air displays in the WRPA Visitors centre and the antiquarium to be established by the Medinet Madi project, integrating information on the history, archaeology and biodiversity of the Fayoum region and the Western Desert of Egypt. (6.3) Design and implement field-based environmental education activities and services targeting students and the general public, based on a holistic interpretation of the natural and cultural history of the region and highlighting the dynamic relationship between man and the natural environment. (6.4) Conduct customised training programmes and on the job training targeting rangers, guides etc. in order to improve interpretation and guiding skills supporting the effective operation of jointly designed visitor services. (6.5) Define an operational framework for the long-term collaboration between the management teams of the two sites by supporting the formal establishment and functioning of a management committee coordinating activities in the two areas. (6.6) Jointly initiate a process of bio-regional planning for the Wadi el Rayan Medinet Madi areas based on formal consultations with local communities, Governorate authorities and other key stakeholders.

Wadi el Rayan is an area for testing innovative conservation techniques, which contribute to the livelihood of local communities and to economic development.



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Checklists of Species Plants


Ferns Adiantum capillus-veneris L., “kuzbarat el-bit” - Maidenhair Dicots Asclepiadaceae Cynanchum acutum L., “moddeid” – Montpellier scamony plant Caryophyllaceae Spergularia marina (L.), Bessler “abou ghulam” – Sand spurrey Ceratophyllaceae Ceratophyllum demersum L., “nakhshoush el-hout” – Horn-weed Chenopodiaceae Arthrocnemum macrostachyum (Moric.) K. Koch, “shenan” Beta vulgaris L. subsp. maritima (L.) Arcang., “dirs el-kalb” – Wild beet Cornulaca monacantha Delile, “haad” Haloxylon salicornicum (Moq.) Bunge ex Boiss, “rimth” Salsola imbricata Forssk. subsp. gaetula (Maire) Boulos, “kharit” Compositae Launaea capitata (Spreng.) Dandy, “halawan” Launaea nudicaulis (L.) Hook. f., “morrar” Pluchea dioscorides (L.) DC., “barnouf” Sonchus maritimus L., “howa” Sonchus oleraceus L., “go’edeid” – Sow thistle Convolvulaceae Convolvulus arvensis L., “olleiq” – Lesser bindweed Cressa cretica L., “molleih” – Rosin weed Haloragidaceae Myriophyllum spicatum L., “hazanbal” – Water milfoil Leguminosae Alhagi graecorum Boiss., “aqoul” – Camel thorn Melilotus indicus (L.) All., “nafal” – Scented terfoil Malvaceae Hibiscus sabdariffa L., “karkade” - Roselle Malva parviflora L., “khobbeiza” - Mallow Nitrariaceae Nitraria retusa (Forssk) Asch., “ghardaq” – Salt tree Oleaceae Olea europaea L., “zaitoun” – Olive tree Polygonaceae Calligonum polygonoides L. subsp. comosum (L’Hér.) Soskov, “arta” Rumex dentatus L., “hommeid” – Sorrel Ranunculaceae Ranunculus scleratus L., “zaghalanta” – Marsh crowfoot Solanaceae Hyoscyamus muticus L., “sakran” – Egyptian henbane 91

Solanum nigrum L., “enab el-deib” – Black nightshade Tamaricaceae Tamarix nilotica (Ehrenb.) Bunge, “abal”, “tarfa” - Tamarisk Zygophyllaceae Zygophyllum album L. f., “rotreit” Zygophyllum coccineum L., “balbal” Monocots Cyperaceae Cyperus laevigatus L., “dees” Cyperus rotundus L., “se’ed” – Flat-sedge Scirpus maritimus L., “heesh - Bulrush Gramineae Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers., “negeil” – Bermuda grass Desmostachya bipinnata (L.) Stapf, “halfa” Echinochloa colona (L.) Link “abou-rokba” Imperata cylindrica (L.) Raeusch., “halfa”, “deil el-qott” Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud., “bous”, “ghab” – Common reed Polypogon monspeliensis L., “deil el-far” – Annual bread grass Sporobolus spicatus (Vahl) Kunth, “sammah” – Drop-seed grass Stipagrostis ciliata (Desf.) de Winter, “hmeira” – Feather-grass Zea mays L., “durra” - Corn Juncaceae Juncus acutus L., “samar” – Sharp rush Juncus rigidus Desf., “samar murr” – Sea rush Najadaceae Najus marina L. subsp. armata (H. Lindb.) Horn, “horreish” – Bushy pondweed Palmae Phoenix dactylifera L., “nakhil el-balah” – Date palm Potamogetonaceae Potamogeton pectinatus L., “deil el-faras” – Pondweed Typhaceae Typha domingensis (Pers.) Poir. ex Steud., “bordi”, “deil el-qut”, “dees”

1 2

Species names are given in Latin followed by vernacular Arabic and English names when available. The data is based on the plant collection established by the monitoring unit of the Wadi el Rayan PAMU and additional surveys carried out by Loutfy Boulos.

Fish 1 I. Resident Species Latin name Alestes nurse

English name Characin

Arabic name Raiah

Bagrus bayad Bagrus docmac Bagrus spp. Barbus bynni Brycinus nurse Chelaethiops bibie Clarias. gariepinus

Catfish Catfish Catfish Barbel Characin, Imberi Babee African catfish

Bayad Bagar, Dogmag Bayad Bynni Raiah Babee Qarmout

Haplochromis spp. Hemichromis bimaculatus Labeo. nilotica Lates niloticus

Cichlid Nile carp Nile perch

Bent hemra Bent Hamra Lebees Laffash, Keshr Bayad, Samoos

Oreochromis aureus Oreochromis niloticus Sarotherodon galilaeus

Blue Tilapia Tilapia Tilapia

Bolti hasani Bolti Abiad, Bolti Neeli Bolti mawlawi, Bolti Galilae

Synodontis schall

Barbel, Shield Head Catfish

Gargour Shall

Synodontis spp. Tilapia zillii

II. Introduced species Latin name Aphanius dispar Aphanius fasciatus Atherina boyeri Atherina spp. Ctenopharyngodon idella Cyprinus carpio 1

Green tilapia Redbelly tilapia

English name Sea bass Spotted sea bass Grouper Halfbeak Golden grey mullet Thinlip grey mullet Sea bus Flathead grey mullet Sardine Gilthead / Sea bream

Arabic name Karous Karoos Menakatt Wakkaar Abu mingar Halili Tobar Karoos Bouri Raya / sardeen Denis

Kaib Bolti akhdar

English name Tooth carp Tooth carp Silverside, Big-scale sand smelt

Arabic name Haary Haary, Batreek Bisaria

Silverside Grass carp Common carp

Bisaria Mabrouk el Hashaesh Mabrouk

Data based on unpublished records by Moustafa M. Fouda.

Latin name Dicentrarchus labrax Dicentrarchus punctatus Epinephelus sp. Hemiramphus far Liza aurata Liza ramada Morone punctatus Mugil cephalus Sardinella spp. Sparus auratus


Reptiles 1


Latin name Acanthodactylus scutellatus Acanthodactylus longipes

English name Nidua lizard Saharan fringe-toed lizard

Cerastes cerastes Cerastes vipera Chalcides ocellatus Lytorhynchus diadema Mesalina guttulata Mesalina rubropunctata Psammophis aegyptius

Horned viper Lesser sand viper Ocellated skink Diadmed sand snake Small-spotted lizard Red-spotted lizard Saharan sand snake

Ptyodactylus (guttatus) siphonorhina Scincus scincus Spalerosophis diadema Sphenops sepsoides Stenodactylus petrii Stenodactylus sthenodactylus Tarentola annularis Trapelus mutabilis Tropiocolotes steudneri Varanus griseus

Anderson’s fan-toed gecko Sand fish Clifford’s snake Audouin’s skink Sand gecko Elegant gecko Egyptian gecko Changeable agama Steudner’s pigmy gecko Desert monitor

1 Data based on unpublished records by S. Baha el Din.

Birds 1 Latin Name

English name


Latin Name

English name


Accipiter brevipes

Levant sparrowhawk


Aythya fuligula

Tufted duck


Accipiter nisus



Aythya nyroca

Ferruginous duck


Acrocephalus arundinaceus

Great reed warbler


Botaurus stellaris



Acrocephalus dumetorum

Blyth’s reed warbler


Bubo ascalaphus

Pharaoh Eagle Owl


Acrocephalus melanopogon

Moustached warbler


Bubulcus ibis

Cattle egret


Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Sedge warbler


Burhinus oedicneumus



Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Reed warbler


Buteo buteo vulpines

Steppe buzzard


Acrocephalus stentoreus

Clamorous reed warbler


Buteo rufinus

Long-legged buzzard


Actitis hypoleucos

Common sandpiper


Calidris alba



Alaemon alaudipes

Hoopoe lark


Calidris alpina



Alcedo atthis



Calidris minuta

Little stint


Anas acuta



Calidris temminckii

Temminck's stint


Anas clypeata



Carandrella brahydactyla

Short-toed lark


Anas crecca



Centropus senegalensis

Senegal coucal


Anas penelope



Cercotrichas galactotes

Rufous bushchat


Anas platyrhynchos



Ceryle rudis

Pied kingfisher


Anas querquedula



Charadrius alexandrinus

Kentish plover


Anas strepera



Charadrius dubius

Little ringed plover


Anthus campestris

Tawny pipit


Charadrius hiaticula

Ringed plover


Anthus cervinus

Red-throated pipit


Charadrius leschenaultii

Greater sand plover


Anthus pratensis

Meadow pipit


Chlidonias hybridus

Whiskered tern


Anthus spinoletta

Water pipit


Chlidonias leucopterus

White-winged black tern


Anthus trivialis

Tree pipit


Chlidonias niger

Black tern


Apus apus

Commun swift


Ciconia ciconia

White stork


Apus pallidus

Pallid swift


Ciconia nigra

Black stork


Ardea cinerea

Grey heron


Circaetus gallicus

Short-toed eagle


Ardea purpurea

Purple heron


Circus aeruginosus

Marsh harrier


Ardeola ralloides

Squacco heron


Circus macrourus

Pallid harrier


Asio flammeus

Short-eared owl


Circus pygargus

Montagu's harrier


Aythya ferina



Coracias garrulus



1 The list - the first to cover the entire protected area - is based on three years of data collection (1999-2001) by the Monitoring Unit of the Wadi el Rayan PAMU (IUCN, 2001a) and records from the SEEN birds ringing station (Nowakowski, 2001). The existing checklist of the birds of Egypt (Goodman & Meininger, 1989) was used as a reference during data collection. The status of the various species and the number of recorded species are still under study and are far from definitive. BR = breeding resident; R = non-breeding resident; MB = breeding migrant (coming to the country to breed); WV = winter visitor (November to February); SV = non-breeding summer visitor; GM = general migrant (from February to May and August to November); AV = accidental visitor (very rare visitor).



Latin Name Corvus corone cornix Corvus ruficollis Coturnix coturnix Cuculus canorus Cursorius cursor Delichron urbica Egretta alba Egretta garzetta Emberiza hortulana Eremophila bilopha Erithacus rubecula Falco biarmicus Falco concolor Falco naumanni Falco pelegrinoides Falco tinnunculus Ficedula albicollis Ficedula hypoleuca Fringilla coelebs Fulica atra Gallinago gallinago Gallinago media Gallinula chloropus Gelochelidon nilotica Glareola pratincola Grus grus Himantopus himantopus Hippolais pallida Hirundo daurica Hirundo rustica

English name Hooded crow Brown-necked raven Quail Cuckoo Cream-coloured courser House martin Great white egret Little egret Ortolan Temminck’s lark Robin Lanner falcon Sooty falcon Lesser kestrel Barbary's falcon Kestrel Collared flycatcher Pied flycatcher Chaffinch Coot Snipe Great snipe Moorhen Gull-billed tern Collared pratincole Crane Black-winged stilt Olivaceous warbler Red-rumped swallow Swallow


Latin Name Lanius excubitor Lanius meridionalis Lanius senator Larus fuscus Larus genei Larus ichthyaetus Larus ridibundus Limosa limosa Luscinia megarhinchos Luscinia svecica Merops apiaster Merops superciliosus Milvus migrans Monticola saxatilis Monticola solitarius Motacilla alba Motacilla flava Muscicapa striata Netta rufina Nycticorax nycticorax Oenante leucopyga Oenanthe deserti Oenanthe hispanica Oenanthe isabellina Oenanthe lugens Oenanthe oenanthe Oriolus oriolus Otus scops Pandion haeliatus Passer domesticus

English name Great grey shrike Southern grey shrike Woodchat shrike Lesser black-backed gull Slender-billed gull Great black-headed gull Black-headed gull Black-tailed godwit Nightingale Bluethroat Eurasian bee-eater Blue-cheeked bee-eater Black kite Rock thrush Blue rock thrush White wagtail Yellow wagtail Spotted flycatcher Red-crested pochard Night heron White-crowned black wheatear Desert wheatear Black-eared wheatear Isabelline wheatear Mourning wheatear Wheatear Golden oriole Scops owl Osprey House sparrow


Hoplopterus spinosus Ixobrychus minutus Jinx torquilla

Spur-winged plover Little bittern Wryneck


Passer hispanicus Phalacrocorax carbo Philomachus pugnax

Spanish sparrow Cormorant Ruff


Latin Name Phoenicopterus minor Phoenicopterus ruber

English name Lesser flamingo Greater flamingo

Status AV AV

Latin Name Sylvia rueppelli Tachybaptus ruficollis

English name Rueppell's warbler Little grebe

Status GM WV

Phoenicurus ochruros Phoenicurus phoenicurus Phylloscopus bonelli Phylloscopus collybita Phylloscopus sibilatrix Phylloscopus trochilus Platalea leucorodia Plegadis falcinellus Podiceps cristatus Podiceps nigricollis Porphyrio porphyrio Porzana porzana Prinia gracilis Pterocles orientalis Pterocles senegallus Recurvirostra avosetta Riparia riparia

Black redstart Redstart Bonelli’s warbler Chiffchaff Wood warbler Greenish warbler Spoonbill Glossy ibis Great crested grebe Black-necked grebe Purple gallinule Spotted crake Graceful warbler Black-bellies sandgrouse Spotted sandgrouse Avocet Sand martin


Tadorna tadorna Tringa glareola Tringa nebularia Tringa ochropus Tringa stagnatilis Tringa totanus Upupa epops

Shelduck Wood sandpiper Greenshank Green sandpiper Marsh sandpiper Redshank Hoopoe


Saxicola rubetra Saxicola torquata Scotocerca inquieta Sterna albifrons Sterna caspia Sterna hirundo Sterna repressa Streptopelia decaocto Streptopelia senegalensis Streptopelia turtur Sylvia atricapilla

Whinchat Stonechat Scrub warbler Little tern Caspian tern Common tern Withe-cheeked tern Collared dove Palm dove Turtle dove Blackcap


Sylvia communis Sylvia curruca Sylvia melanocephala

Whitethroat Lesser whitethroat Sardinian warbler


BR = breeding resident; R = non-breeding resident; MB = breeding migrant (coming to the country to breed); WV = winter visitor (November to February); SV = non-breeding summer visitor; GM = general migrant (from February to May and August to November); AV = accidental visitor (very rare visitor).


Mammals 1


Latin name Arvicanthis niloticus niloticus Canis aureus lupaster

English name Field rat Golden jackal

Crocidura flavescens deitac Crocidura floweri Dipodillus amoenus amoenus Eptesicus bottae Felis chaus nilotica Felis sylvestris libyca Gazella dorcas dorcas

Giant musk shrew Flower’s shrew Charming dipodil Botta’s serotine (bat) Jungle cat African wild cat Dorcas gazelle

Gazella leptocerus leptocerus Gerbillus andersoni andersoni Gerbillus gerbillus gerbillus Gerbillus pyramidum pyramidum Hemiechinus auritus Herpestes ichneumon Jaculus jaculus Jaculus jaculus jaculus Lepus capensis rothschildi Meriones crassus perpallidus Meriones lybicus lybicus Mus musculus practextus Mustela nivalis subpalmata Nesokia indica suilla Rattus norvegicus Rattus rattus Vulpes ruepelli ruepelli Vulpes vulpes aegyptica Vulpes zerda

Slender horned gazelle Anderson’s gerbil Lesser gerbil Greater gerbil Long-eared hedgehog Egyptian mongoose Lesser jerboa Desert jerboas Cape hare Silky jird Libyan jird House mouse Weasel Bandicoot rat Brown rat House rat Ruppell’s sand fox Red fox Fennec fox

1 Data based on Osborne & Helmy, 1980; Saleh et al., 1988; Goodman & Meininger, 1989; Baha el Din, unpublished data and field records from the monitoring unit of the Wadi el Rayan PAMU.

Abbreviations and Acronyms DGCS EIA EEAA

Italian General Directorate for Development Cooperation Environmental Impact Assessment Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency


Fayoum Water Management Project Geographic Information System The World Conservation Union Nature Conservation Sector Non Governmental Organisation Protected Area Protected Area Management Unit


Supreme Council of Antiquities Tourism Development Authority United Nations Wadi el Rayan Protected Area