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

Serengeti wildebeest, zebra migration, new research

This video is called Serengeti – The Adventure (Full Documentary, HD).

From Wildlife Extra:

New findings on what drives the great annual migration across the Serengeti

Across the Serengeti-Mara, millions of wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebra are making their annual migration in one of the most spectacular sights of the natural world.

Six of these animals are currently wearing high-tech GPS collars, equipped with mobile phone technology – and over the past 10 years, a total of 40 have done so.

Scientists involved in this unique tracking programme analyse how these animals make decisions during their migration and use this information to devise effective mitigation strategies to ensure their survival.

The research, led by Dr Grant Hopcraft of the University of Glasgow’s Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health, sheds new light on the drivers behind the animals’ migratory decision-making.

The group’s findings suggest that although wildebeest and zebra migrate together, they move for very different reasons: wildebeest are constantly looking for fresh grazing, whereas zebra balance their need to access good food against the relative risk of being killed by a predator.

However, the results also show that both species are driven, above all else, by the need to avoid the threat of humans and human development.

“The impact of humans trumps everything else,” said Dr Hopcraft.

“This provides critical insights as to why other migrations are collapsing,” he added, pointing elsewhere, to the dwindling numbers of saiga (small antelopes) found on the Mongolian Steppes, the Mongolian gazelle, a horse-like animal called the kulan, the pronghorn antelope in the US state of Montana, and caribou and bison in North America.

The findings on the impact of human behaviour come at a time when the Tanzanian government has been considering a national highway through the Serengeti to create a trade route from Dar es Salaam and other Indian Ocean ports to Lake Victoria, offering access to countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda.

If built, the road is likely to carry as many as 3,000 vehicles across the Serengeti every day.

“A road would have catastrophic effects on how these animals migrate,” said Dr Hopcraft. “It would separate their dry season refuge from their wet season calving grounds.

“All 1.3 million wildebeest and 250,000 zebra would have to cross that road in order to access the Mara River which is the only source of water during the dry season.”

Another threat to wildebeest and zebra is poaching. Evidence suggests there are about 80,000 wildebeest hunted illegally every year for the bushmeat trade.

“When these animals encounter areas of high poaching, both species attempt to exit the area as soon as possible by moving a long way and in straight lines, regardless of the food.

It appears as though these animals can detect risky areas and respond accordingly, which means if we want to protect migrations we need to focus on managing humans and not the animals.”

The lightweight tracking collars, which weigh 1kg and contain a GPS device, mobile phone engine and battery pack, can last up to two years and give the scientists real-time information about how the animals respond to the landscape around them.

The scientists select female animals which are reproductively active as they are most responsive to migratory decision-making.

Dr Hopcraft also reports a puzzling and previously unremarked phenomenon of migrations: when wildebeest and zebra encounter prime habitats with very good grazing, they move faster than when they are in areas with poor grazing.

“Moving fast when resources are good, rather than settling down in one spot and enjoying the feast, is counter-intuitive. Why move if you’re in a good spot? Every other species does exactly the opposite.

“We believe the difference in the wildebeest and zebra’s behaviour is down to the sheer density of the herds. It’s a numbers game,” he said.

When the grazing is at its peak, the prime grass is eaten almost immediately and individuals are then forced to find the next hotspot before everyone else does. In other words, the competition for food drives the race.

This unique eat-and-run feature of mass migrations suggests that we might be losing key ecosystem processes, without even realising it.

If animals such as bison behaved like wildebeest when they were in super-high concentrations, then the distribution and cycling of nutrients such as dung and urine was probably very different in these eco-systems historically, compared to today.

“These intact ecosystems where natural process such as migrations have occurred for thousands of years serve as a critical benchmark against which we can measure our own impact,” said Dr Hopcraft.