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
(B) £1000 towards a survey of the conservation status of Zanzibar's Touraco Tauraco fischeri zanzibaricus (here).
(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).
(D) £650 towards a survey of Red-crested Turaco Tauraco erythrolophus in the Kumbira Forest, Gabela, Angola (here).
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.
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:
Reported in Issue 17 - Spring 2002: A survey of the biology and conservation status of Zanzibar Turaco Tauraco fischeri zanzibaricus
This was a feedback report on the survey referred to above.
The survey found that:
(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.
The I.T.S. contributed a sum of £300 to this project in Ethiopia.
Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco Ruspolii
Tauraco ruspolii and hybrid photographs (extracted from Issue 19)
Expected output of the study
Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco Tauraco Ruspolii in Fig Tree
Reported in Issue 31 - Spring 2009: Is Ruspoli’s Turaco threatened by hybridization with White-cheeked Turaco?
This was a feedback report on the survey referred to above.
The survey yielded a number of interesting – albeit preliminary - results.
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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
Reported in Issue 37 - Spring 2012: Update on Red-crested Turaco Survey in Angola
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
"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.
Reported in Issue 42 - Winter 2014: Kumbira Field Trip Report 2014
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
Funding and Publishing
I am very grateful to the people and institutions who funded this year's fieldwork:
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
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