Turaco Conservation

ITS Conservation Projects

The International Turaco Society has been financially involved with four projects in Africa, which hopefully have benefitted turacos in their natural habitats and will continue to do so.

(A) 50 Posters for African Schools (here).
Reported in Issue 15.

(B) £1000 towards a survey of the conservation status of Zanzibar's Touraco Tauraco fischeri zanzibaricus (here).
Reported in Issues 16 and 17.

(C) £300 towards an assessment of the influences of hybridization and habitat destruction to the survival of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco ruspolii around Kibre Mengist and Shakisso area, Ethiopia (here).
Reported in Issues 29, 31, 33, 35 and 36.

(D) £650 towards a survey of Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus in the Kumbira Forest, Gabela, Angola (here).
Reported in Issues 34, 35, 37, 39 and 42.

(A) Reported in Issue 15 - Spring 2001: Posters for African Schools

The International Turaco Society committee had been looking at various conservation and educational projects with a view to investing society funds to help turacos.

"Our first lead came from Don Turner in Africa, who suggested that by donating our wonderful 'Touracos of the World' poster to local schools, we would be making positive steps to help educate the local children of this beautiful natural resource in their area. That summer we sent 50 posters which were then distributed to 11 schools near Tsavo, home of the White-bellied Go-away Bird."

Here is a photograph of one of those schools receiving the posters.

The committee were then looking at other projects to be involved with and hoped that in the future there would be many more articles informing members of where their membership money is going and the good work that it is helping to achieve.


(B) Reported in Issue 16 - Autumn 2001: A survey of the conservation status of Zanzibar's Touraco Tauraco fischeri zanzibaricus
Luca Borghesio (Italy)

The ITS contributed £1000 towards the cost of this expedition.

The aim of the research was of acquiring a detailed picture of the conservation status of Zanzibar's Touraco. More specifically, the principal goals were:
• To obtain population estimates.
• To obtain information on habitat selection.
• To obtain basic information on the life history and ecology.
• To obtain information on the present threats to the survival of the species.

Reported in Issue 17 - Spring 2002: A survey of the biology and conservation status of Zanzibar Turaco Tauraco fischeri zanzibaricus
Luca Borghesio (Italy) and others

This was a feedback report on the survey referred to above.

The survey found that:
• The preferred habitat of Zanzibar Turaco is dry forest and old thickets, restricted to reasonably undisturbed, densely wooded habitats.
• The distribution, at the time of the survey, was wider than previously thought, but the range was strongly fragmented with many sub-populations confined to small habitat patches surrounded by wide expanses of unsuitable habitats, and were thought to be very likely to disappear in the near future.
• Over 70% of the observations were of groups of two or more individuals. No breeding was observed and they were extremely silent during the time of the survey.
• Population density was estimated at about one pair per 5-10 hectares of suitable habitat, with an estimated total, but declining population, of approximately 1200 individuals.
• The main threat to the survival of the Zanzibar Turaco was habitat destruction, which was occurring at an alarming rate.


(C) Reported in Issue 29 - Spring 2008: Assessment of the influences of hybridization and habitat destruction to the survival of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco ruspolii around Kibre Mengist and Shakisso area, Ethiopia.
Project Proposal by Tolera Kumsa

The I.T.S. contributed a sum of £300 to this project in Ethiopia.

Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco Ruspolii
Photo taken by Jean-Marc Lernould (Originally appeared in African Bird Club magazine Volume 11.2)

General Objective
To investigate the impact of hybridization and habitat destruction on the survival of Tauraco ruspolii.

Tauraco ruspolii and hybrid photographs (extracted from Issue 19)

Specific objectives
To assess the extent of hybridization between Tauraco ruspolii and Tauraco leucotis.
To evaluate how much the impact of human activities coincide with hybrid zones.
To assess the proportion of hybrid turacos and compare with pure Tauraco ruspolii and Tauraco leucotis.

Expected output of the study
• To fill the knowledge gap about the current conservation status of the species.
• To generate the extent of hybridization of the species for further study.
• To provide up to date information on the current conservation status of Turaco ruspolii.

Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco Ruspolii in Fig Tree
Photo taken by Jean-Marc Lernould (Originally appeared in African Bird Club magazine Volume 11.2)

Reported in Issue 31 - Spring 2009: Is Ruspoli’s Turaco threatened by hybridization with White-cheeked Turaco?
Luca Borghesio, Tolera Kumsa, Jean-Marc Lernould and Afework Bekele

This was a feedback report on the survey referred to above.

The survey yielded a number of interesting – albeit preliminary - results.
• First of all, the suggestion that hybrids were widespread and probably abundant in the study area, was worrying and might call for a revision of the conservation status of Ruspoli’s Turaco.
• Second, the data seemed indeed to suggest that habitat degradation was increasing the chances of hybridization between Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco and White-cheeked Turaco.
• Third, the unusual case of a forest species that was apparently invading the range of a non-forest relative. Needless to say, we would have expected the reverse! How could this happen? And what was the role of human-driven habitat change in this process? A possible explanation was that increasing afforestation with exotic trees (Eucalyptus spp, Cupressus lusitanica) in the region might have provided T. leucotis with “stepping stones” through which this species was invading into the range of its relative.

It was felt that a follow up of this survey was a high priority.

Reported in Issue 33 - Spring 2010: Update on Turacos in Ethiopia
Dr. Jean-Marc Lernould, Président of CEPA (Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales)

The I.T.S. contributed a sum of £400 towards the continuing study of the turaco hybridisation problem of Prince Ruspoli’s Turacos with White-cheeked Turacos in Ethiopia.

"Prof. Afework Bekele of the University of Addid Abeba identified a new student, Alazar Daka, who is carrying out the field work, continuing the research. Luca Borghesio also spent eleven days in the field with Alazar in September and October 2009. The work with Ruspoli’s will continue until May."

Luca and Alazar when they were together in the field

Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco in Ethiopia

Reported in Issue 35 - Spring 2011: High densities of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco found at Sede and Lela Lemu, southern Ethiopia
Alazar Daka, Luca Borghesio, Jean-Marc Lernould, Afework Bekele

"Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco ruspolii, one of the most charismatic birds of Africa, is restricted to a small range in southern Ethiopia. In 1995, its population was estimated to be 10,000 mature individuals, but rampant rates of habitat destruction in the region might have negative effects on this bird that lives along forest edges and in woodlands with scattered Podocarpus and fig trees.

Recent field work organized by Addis Ababa University and funded by a group of conservation organizations led by CEPA (Conservation des Espèces et des Populations Animales, France) suggests that indeed rates of habitat change have been very fast in the northern part of the species range, where large areas have been converted to agriculture and plantations of exotic trees. It is in that region that cases of hybridization with White-cheeked Turaco, Tauraco l. leucotis were discovered a few years ago.

Fortunately, in the central part of Ruspoli’s Turacos’ range, the woodlands bordering Sede and Lela Lemu Forests are still largely intact, and support high densities of the species. The forests themselves are inhabited by a rich avifauna that includes the White-cheeked Turaco. Clearly, this area is a key site for the conservation of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, as it probably hosts the most important surviving sub-population of this species. However, the survey also found that rates of illegal logging and agricultural expansions are increasing in the area, and rates of habitat destruction are bound to increase as the road system will soon be upgraded to support the expansion of the mining industry, that is already flourishing in the area.

Urgent actions are necessary to improve the conservation of Sede and Lela Lemu Forests and of the woodland belt that surrounds them.

We gratefully acknowledge the support of these sponsors whose donations are crucial to carry out our research programme on Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco: CEPA, Zoologische Gesellchaft fur Arten- und Populationsschutz (ZGAP, Germany), Chester Zoo (UK), the International Turaco Society, the Avicultural Society (UK) and Zlin Zoo (Czech Republic)."

Reported in Issue 36 - Autumn 2011: New studies find challenges and opportunities for the conservation of Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, an endemic bird of Southern Ethiopia
Alazar Daka, Tolera Kumsa, Luca Borghesio, Jean-Marc Lernould and Afework Bekele

The Ethiopian highlands have two endemic species of turacos, the widespread White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis and the globally-threatened Ruspoli’s Turaco T. ruspolii. The two turacos co-occur only in a small region of southern Ethiopia, where T. leucotis mainly lives in forest and T. ruspolii mainly in more open woodland vegetation. Natural hybrids of the two species were reported in 2002, which might pose a new threat to the survival of T. ruspolii. Field work was carried out between November 2007 and June 2010 to evaluate the abundance and distribution of the turaco hybrids as well as understand the impact of human-caused habitat change on Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco. We obtained 342 records of T. leucotis, 231 of T. ruspolii and 9 of hybrids. Hybrids were observed in the overlap zone between the ranges of the two parent species, suggesting that they are widespread in the region. Turaco hybrids are difficult to recognize and can only be safely distinguished from pure individuals if seen at close distance, therefore we believe that the abundance of hybrids might have been underestimated. All the hybrids were observed in anthropized habitats, suggesting that habitat change might be one of the causes of hybridization. Recording frequencies of T. ruspolii were quite high, especially in the Sede and Lela Lemu area, where human presence is limited. Recording rates of turacos decreased in more anthropized habitats.

Fortunately, Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco is still abundant where appropriate habitat occurs. Although precise estimates of population density will require more detailed analyses, it is reassuring to see that, where woodland makes 50% or more of the habitat, the recording frequency of Ruspoli’s Turaco is 0.3 or even higher (i.e. 3 or more observations of turaco for each 10 points sampled). This suggests satisfactory abundance, especially considering that Ruspoli’s Turaco goes often unrecorded due to its shy and silent behaviour. However, the frequency of Ruspoli’s Turaco decreases rapidly as the amount of agriculture in the landscape increases, which shows, if there was any need, that increasing human impact will certainly have a negative impact on the population of Ruspoli’s Turaco.

The results of our study also show the importance of the forests of Sede and Lela Lemu for the conservation of Ruspoli’s Turaco. The large expanses of woodland surrounding these forests are the places where the highest frequencies of Ruspoli’s Turaco were observed, and the forests themselves are one of the few remaining examples of largely intact montane forests of Ethiopia, which are important not only for the White-cheeked Turaco, but probably also for a suite of other species, including plants, mammals and birds. These forests should be afforded more protection to save them from the rapidly growing human disturbance, which is bound to escalate soon as large mining sites (gold has been found in the area) and new roads are being opened close to them.

Tauraco leucotis Photo by Jean-Marc Lernould


(D) Reported in Issue 34 - Autumn 2010: Proposal for fundraising towards a data collection expedition for Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus in the Kumbira Forest, Gabela, Angola.
Louise Peat

In September 2010, the International Turaco Society contributed £400 towards this project. This money was kindly donated by Stephen Dolton (ITS committee member) - the proceeds from an ITS event held at his house.

September Expedition
On the 10th of September 2010 Michael Mills will be leading an expedition to the Angolan scarp at Kumbira (funded by the Conservation Leadership Programme). He will be performing surveys of several endangered bird species in the area. After discussion with Michael he would be happy to include Red-crested Turaco as one of the species surveyed during the expedition. He is also happy to take photos of any trees the turacos are feeding from in order to identify some of the wild feeding habits of this species. Information that could go towards advancing captive turaco nutrition.

Michael is trying to secure a vehicle for the conservation work in Angola. The vehicle is planned to be purchased at the end of April 2011.

If this initial survey and data collection leads to a further project on Red-crested Turaco in Angola we would have the advantage of access to this vehicle for field work.

Reported in Issue 35 - Spring 2011: Survey of Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus in the Kumbira Forest, Gabela, Angola
Louise Peat

On the 10th September 2010 Michael Mills lead an expedition to the Angolan scarp at Kumbira. He conducted surveys of several endangered bird species in the area. After discussion with Michael, he was happy to include Red-crested Turaco as one of the species to be surveyed during the expedition. This would provide an important preliminary investigation of the population density and whether the population may be under threat from de-forestation.

Michael Mills in action

Red-crested Turaco

Additional Information
During the survey Michael also took photographs of trees that the turaco frequented, in order to try to ascertain much needed information regarding the feeding habits of this species. Currently there is no documented information about feeding or breeding habits for this species.

From Michael’s results Red-crested Turaco are fairly common in this area at present. The results show that turacos prefer to inhabit areas of dense cover, with a preference for high canopy cover. Without any conservation protection of this area, if loss of habitat continues, this could potentially have an effect on turaco numbers. This preliminary survey has provided useful information and will provide comparative information for any future surveys on this species to detect any changes to population density.

Reported in Issue 37 - Spring 2012: Update on Red-crested Turaco Survey in Angola
Louise Peat.

After much searching for the right vehicle, and a few disappointing let downs, this month Michael Mills has finally procured a vehicle which will be used to assist in bird conservation projects in Angola.

Michael Mills proudly showing off his new Nissan Hardbody

As you can see Michael is thrilled with the vehicle and goes on to state, “I've finally managed to buy a car for our Angola projects! It's a new Nissan Hardbody. Thanks so much for assisting with the fund raising. Please do thank everyone who contributed. More good news is that Aimy Caceres, who helped with the surveys at Kumbira, is just commencing a PhD at Kumbira, taking our previous research a step further.” (see below)

Reported in Issue 39 - Summer 2013: Studying for a PhD in Angola
Aimy Caceres


"I returned to Angola in 2010 to collect data for my thesis and later that same year I participated in a field trip to Kumbira Forest, in the Central Angolan Scarp, with Michael Mills. The objective of this field trip was to assess the effects of different land uses in the bird community of the area, especially the endemics. It was in this field trip that the need of a long-term research and conservation project for this area was noticed.

On our last field trip (October 2012) Martim Melo and I got the brand new car (that was bought thanks to the support of the EAZA Red-crested Turaco holders and the International Turaco Society) stuck on a little wooden bridge.

I was always aware of the great difficulties of doing a research project in Angola. However it is extremely challenging and motivating to know that this project will contribute with generating information of a biodiversity hotspot and the species inhabiting it. This information will help establish management plans for the area and assure the conservation of the forests.

Since this report, the ITS has donated a further £250 in July 2014 to help Aimy with her continued work in Angola. See her most recent report below:

Reported in Issue 42 - Winter 2014: Kumbira Field Trip Report 2014
Aimy Cáceres Pinedo

This year two trips were taken to Kumbira during the dry season. The first trip was carried out between May 31st and June 29th, in which Hugo Pereira and Ana Leite participated, both of whom work at the Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos (CIBIO).

The second trip took place between August 2nd and August 31st, on which Henrique Costa and Ursula Franke joined me. Henrique is a MSc student at the Science Faculty of the University of Porto and also happens to be my husband. Ursula is a German psychologist and bird ringer.

The main objectives of this year's field trips were to capture and radio-track 16 Gabela Akalats to determine this species' territorial needs and habitat preferences and to assess biomass capacity of Kumbira Forest. However we also performed bird point counts in a different area of Kumbira Forest.

Bird point counts and Red-crested Turaco presence

We performed bird point counts in the “Alto Minho” area of Kumbira. The objective was to survey areas where no bird censuses were performed in 2010, 2012 and 2013. Bird point counts were done in the early morning, from sunrise (c. 6:15h) until the end of morning activity (c. 10:00h).

Point counts were done after playing a track of 30-second snippets of vocalizations of each of the threatened endemic species: Monteiro Bush-shrike, Pulitzer Longbill, Gabela Akalat and Gabela Bush-shrike. During the five minutes after playback, all of the endemic species heard or seen in a 50m radius were registered, including Red-crested Turaco (Fig 1). Repetitions were performed during the afternoon (c. 15:30h – 18:00h) and sample points were separated by at least 200m from each other in order to avoid double counting.

Fig 1. Aimy Cáceres doing a bird point count in the Alto Minho area.

A total of 83 points were done and Red-crested Turaco were registered in 12 of these points. However the species is quite common in the area as all the previous census done in Kumbira had shown (Fig 2).

Fig 2.
Bird point counts performed in Kumbira.
Blue points were done in 2010, 2012 and 2013 and orange points in this year's field trip.
Darker points account for the presence of Red-crested Turaco.

Red-crested Turacos are difficult to observe in Kumbira. Even though the species is quite common in the area, they are high canopy birds, which makes it extremely difficult to observe their daily behaviour and foraging habits.

They are also difficult to capture because they spend most of the time in the highest branches of the tallest trees. However, it is quite common to hear them calling early in the morning and at the end of the afternoon.

Others - Conservation Issues

Forest areas continue to be slashed-and-burned for agriculture. During the months we spent in Kumbira we did not hear or see any people with chainsaws, but we did observe areas where high canopy trees had been logged.

Meetings with local government

We met with Mr. Fernando Fonseca, the Administrator of Conda, a couple of times. Mr. Fonseca is eager to create a Natural Reserve for Kumbira. However the local government can only propose such action to the province government. He understands the importance of the forests, but the municipality of Conda has very limited resources to implement any kind of conservation actions.

A local collaborator

Sergio Fasz, the person we met last year from Kumbira village, helped Ursula setting nets, capturing and ringing birds (Fig 3). He is a person eager to learn and I hope he continues collaborating with us next year.

Fig 3.
Ursula Franke teaching Sergio Fasz to measure birds.

Presentation in Huambo

I was invited by the Instituto Superior das Ciências da Educação de Huambo (ISCED-Huambo) to give a presentation about the Mount Moco project (Fig 4). A group of teachers of ISCED-Huambo are interested in developing an education project in Mount Moco. We hope this initiative comes through as it will benefit the local population.

Fig 4.
Aimy Cáceres giving a presentation in ISCED-Huambo.

The car is not only for driving

The car has been extremely useful for this project. It has not only allowed us to get to Kumbira and other places in Angola to assess birds, but we have also used it as a ringing station for the captured birds, to help other cars stuck in the mud and to move around our study area (Fig 5).

Fig 5.
Project car helping another car stuck in the mud, around the study area and as a ringing station.

Funding and Publishing

I am very grateful to the people and institutions who funded this year's fieldwork:
• Leventis Foundation and A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), Nigeria
• International Turaco Society
• Louise Peat from the Cotswold Wildlife Park
• Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

And to the people who kindly lent equipment: Paul Donald from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Jorge Palmerim from the Centre for Environmental Biology from Lisbon University for lending radio-tracking equipment. Also to Luís Catarino from the Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical (IICT) and Jorge Rocha from CIBIO.

Oryx, the International Journal of Conservation, has finally published the paper: “Threatened birds of the Angolan Central Escarpment: distribution and response to habitat change at Kumbira Forest”, a manuscript containing the results of the first years of research in Kumbira.


A short report entitled, “Home range size estimates for two endangered endemic species from the Angolan Scarp Forest” had been published online in the BOU website for funded projects. This report contains the results of the radio-tracking pilot study, including home-range size estimates for Gabela Akalat and Gabela Bush-shrike.


I want to thank the Administration of Conda, especially the administrator Mr Fernando Fonseca, for supporting the project and the people from Kumbira. Thank you to Nigel Collar, Phil Hall, Martim Melo, Jos Barlow, Michael Mills, Paulo Cardoso and Antonio Monteiro for their constant support and scientific advice. I am also grateful to Ana Leite, Francisco Maiato, Henrique do Vale Costa, Hugo Pereira and Ursula Franke for their help collecting data in the field. I also want to thank Ana Nunes, Catherine McMahon, Cristovão Vieira, Domingos Ribeiro, Herculano Antas, Kelse Alexandre, Michael Rogerson, Luis Araujo (Conda), Ricardo Ribeiro and Zulmira Oliveira.


Conservation Co-ordinator: Louise Peat
E-mail: Louise Peat

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