Working for birds in Africa

Important Bird Areas in Tanzania: A First Inventory

Fri, 12/21/2012 - 13:22 -- abc_admin
Neil and Elisabeth Baker. 2002. Dar es Salaam: Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania. 303pp, 8O maps, line drawings. Paperback. ISBN 9987-558-04-6. Distributed by NHBS.
pages 67 - 68

This is yet another valuable product from the Important Bird Area (IBA) programme, presenting the sites of a single country, following similar publications on Ethiopia, Egypt, Madagascar, Kenya, Uganda, Southern Africa and Nigeria. A succinct 28-page introductory section includes a presentation of the background and aims of the book, a country profile, chapters on conservation in Tanzania and the IBA process, and a summary of the country's IBAs. There follow the 80 site accounts. These are usually 3 - 4 pages long and all, except one (Tanga North-Kobo salt pans), have an attractively produced one-page map. The accounts follow the same format as those in Fishpool & Evans, with sections entitled Site description, Birds, Other threatened / endemic wildlife, Conservation issues, and full references. A new and very useful section is 'Ideas for future action'. Appendices include clear lists of restricted-range and biome-restricted species within Tanzania's IBAs, and notes on eight of Tanzania's globally threatened species. Among the latter are two sought after species whose status is considered Critical, which means they have a 50% chance of extinction in the next five years: Uluguru Bush-shrike Malaconotus alius and Long-billed (Moreau's) Tailorbird Orthotomus moreaui. The bush-shrike is endemic to part of the Uluguru Mountains IBA, where it is seemingly confined to mid-altitude forest and has an estimated population of only 1,200 pairs.

With its 80 identified IBAs, Tanzania is the country with the third-highest number of IBAs of the region covered by Fishpool & Evans: only Madagascar (with 84) and South Africa (with 101) have more. It is also the country with the second-largest total area covered by IBAs, after Sudan. Three unprotected areas have been added to the 77 IBAs listed in the regional IBA book, Lake Balangida Lelu (important for waterbirds), Yaida Chini (with recent records of White-tailed Bush Larks Mirafra albicauda and large numbers of waterbirds) and 196,000 ha of the Masai Steppe (where a pair of Taita Falcons Falco fasciinucha was discovered in the late 1990s). When considering the number of globally threatened species, Tanzania, which has 32 of these, ranks as the most important country in Africa (for comparison: Madagascar has 28, Congo-Kinshasa 26, Kenya 22 and Ethiopia 17).

Although this well-designed book is primarily a tool for conservationists and decision-makers, the wealth of information it contains can also be put to good use by visiting birders, who could add to the knowledge of poorly known sites. Strongly recommended to anyone seriously interested in Tanzania's avifauna.

Ron Demey
References: 
Fishpool, L.D.C. & Evans, M.I. (eds) 2001. Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands: Priority Sites for Conservation. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International & Newbury: Pisces Publications.

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