Long-billed tailorbird research in Tanzania


Long-billed tailorbird

From BirdLife:

Survey success in Tanzania: 17 new territories found for Critically Endangered Long-billed Tailorbird

By Obaka Torto, Tue, 28/04/2015 – 14:13

Over the last year, intensive effort has been under way to survey and monitor the Critically Endangered Long-billed Tailorbird, in the East Usambara Mountains in Tanzania, to provide information on the species’ distribution and habitat requirements.

The Long-billed Tailorbird Artisornis moreaui occurs at only two locations: the Njesi plateau in northern Mozambique; and the East Usambara Mountains in northern Tanzania, which holds the majority of the population. These sites are separated by almost 1000 km and, despite much searching, the species has not been observed elsewhere. The bird’s known range is just a few hundred square kilometers, an area substantially smaller than cities such as Nairobi or Dar es Salaam.

The Long-billed Tailorbird has an unusual ecology. It is strongly forest dependent, not occurring outside of the forest, or in forest fragments smaller than 300 ha. Moreover, the bird is restricted to relatively open parts of the forest, such as canopy gaps, stream lines and forest edges. Unfortunately, its habitat requirements and distribution coincides with the places where humans are also active, such as along streams and areas bordering the forest. Thus, habitat disturbance by humans often threatens this tailorbird.

Smallholder, subsistence agriculture as well as commercial crops have replaced over 60% of the indigenous forest. What remains is often heavily disturbed, severely fragmented, and degraded by numerous invasive plants, introduced to the Tanzania site via the development of the Amani Botanical Garden. Nesting sites are often destroyed due to bush clearance for agriculture or thatching. The frequency of observation along forest edges is about 30% lower than in forest interior, and edge territories tend to be occupied for shorter time spans, suggesting that birds often abandon their nesting sites due to higher levels of disturbance.

The BirdLife International project office in Tanzania, in collaboration with the RSPB, has initiated a multi-year project to conserve the endemic and threatened biodiversity of the East Usambaras, with a focus on the Long-billed Tailorbird. Over the last year, a top priority has been to carry out intensive field work to draw a high resolution map of the distribution of this species. A field team of local ornithologists have been trained to recognise the species: a small, skulking and often unobtrusive bird, which is well known for being difficult to observe.

Armed with GPS, binoculars, laser rangefinders and aerial photos, the local team have been combing an area of more than 200 km², recording all the observations with a resolution of a few metres. The resulting maps show a cluster of points that correspond to an estimate of 80-120 territories, some of which have been continuously occupied for about eight years. The map shows sites that have the highest concentration of observations, as well as where human activities are more likely to cause the highest levels of disturbance. This intensive fieldwork has resulted in the discovery of 17 new territories of this Critically Endangered bird: this is a fantastic breakthrough which will enable project staff to target conservation efforts and to provide more information on the status of the species.

Story by Dr Norbert Cordeiro, Dr Luca Borghesio, Alice Ward-Francis (RSPB) and Festo Semanini (BirdLife International)

27 new animal species discovered in Tanzania


This video says about itself:

The 2008 edition of the Exo Terra expedition headed for the Eastern Arc Mountains and the Southern Highlands of the Republic of Tanzania in East Africa. The main goal of this expedition was to map the amphibian and reptile biodiversity of these regions and to get a better understanding of the species inhabiting these complex ecosystems.

From Wildlife Extra:

27 new species found in Tanzanian forests

A recent study revealed that 27 new vertebrate species have been found in the forests of Tanzania’s Eastern Arc Mountains. Of these, 23 were amphibians and reptiles. Of the total species that were identified in the region, the study found that there are 211 vertebrate species that are found only in the Eastern Arc Mountains, and 203 of them are found in Tanzania alone. These findings, says the study, re-enforce the importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains as one of the top locations on Earth for biological diversity and uniqueness.

“The Eastern Arc Mountains were already known for the unusually high density of endemic species,” explains Neil Burgess, a leading expert on Africa’s biodiversity and vice-chair of the TFCG, “however we lacked comprehensive data from at least six of the 13 mountain blocks.”

The study was conducted by an international team, and included researchers from the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG) and MUSE-Science Museum in Italy, and was financed by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

The Eastern Arc Mountains are an isolated chain of geologically ancient mountains that extend from southern Kenya to south-central Tanzania. According to scientists, the forest has existed on the mountains for more than 30 million years and was once connected to forests in the Congo Basin and West Africa.

More Kenyan, Tanzanian rare wildlife than thought


This video from Tanzania is called Eastern Arc Mountains Refuge.

From BirdLife:

Many more threatened species in an East African biodiversity hotspot than previously thought

By Obaka Torto, Fri, 19/09/2014 – 10:05

The Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania and Kenya (EACF) are currently understood to host over 750 globally threatened species of plants and animals, more than double the 333 species listed in an assessment undertaken in 2003. This is according the newly released 2008-2013 biodiversity status and trends report for the EACF, a region that now forms parts of both the ”Eastern Afromontane” and ”Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa” global biodiversity hotspots.

In addition to 26 species now listed as more threatened than 10 years ago, the increase is mostly attributed to a comprehensive assessment of plants, which was not available in the previous assessment. New species descriptions for the region are also highlighted, including 20 amphibians and reptiles, one mammal and one plant species. The report recommends consideration of a further 17 sites for recognition as Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), owing to the presence of globally threatened taxa within them.

Threats that are reported as facing biodiversity in the EACF include unsustainable charcoal production, which is a major driver of the decline in forest cover and habitat fragmentation in Dakatcha Woodlands in Kenya, important for the endangered Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi and Sokoke Scops-owl Otus ireneae. Other threats include conversion of forest for agriculture, human population increase and forest fires. Invasive species are underscored as probably a more serious problem in the region than had previously been realised. At least 22 invasive plant species are considered problematic, with Maesopsis eminii, Rubus sp. and Cedrela odorata being probably the most serious. In Kenya, Prosopsis juliflora is reported to have invaded the Tana River Delta.

On a positive note, improved forest management resulting from improved protection status is observed at some sites. Among these are three forest blocks in Amani Nature Reserve, Tanzania, which changed from private to state tenure. Evidence also continues to emerge supporting the effectiveness of a Participatory Forest Management (PFM) approach; this is demonstrated by increased populations of wild game species in some sites, such as West Usambara, where PFM is implemented.

Further good news for the region follows implementation of new Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) projects, especially in Tanzania: for example, Piloting REDD in Zanzibar through community forest management project and Making REDD work for communities and forest conservation in Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal Forests of Tanzania project”. These projects are designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and to improve livelihoods in local communities by making them beneficiaries of REDD financing. However, the report recommends that successful REDD projects must have a strong focus on strengthening village institutions to ensure high levels of compliance and enforcement of forest user rules within project boundaries.

The report finally highlights some recent positive policy developments. Among these is the development of the conservation strategy for the Eastern Arc Mountain Forests in Tanzania. Also highlighted is the development of an action plan for conservation in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest which emphasizes enhancement of connectivity and quality of habitat and security of elephants while safeguarding against human-wildlife conflict. The enactment of the Kenya Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, as well as the Tourism Act and policy in Tanzania are also highlighted.

The EACF runs 900 km along the Kenya-Tanzania coasts and includes Zanzibar, Pemba and Mafia Islands off the Tanzanian mainland. The region is very important for its biological diversity and richness. It is characterized by a high level of species endemism, exceptional diversity of its plant and animal communities and a severe degree of threat. This report is a result of a recently concluded BirdLife project that aimed at consolidating and presenting biodiversity data for the region in order, among other objectives, to increase leverage of REDD+ and REDD Readiness for the EACF. The report mostly relies on collating published information from a variety of sources, including direct contributions by the researchers in the region.

The project was implemented by the BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat and Nature Kenya (BirdLife Partner). It was funded by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), which is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Dévelopement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation, and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure that civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.

A copy of this and previous reports for the region can be downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/info/EAMHome.

Story by: Mercy Kariuki and Kariuki Ndang’ang’a