Working for birds in Africa

La faune terrestre de l'archipel des Comores

Fri, 21/12/2012 - 13:03 -- abc_admin
Michel Louette. Danny Meirte and Rudy Jocqué (eds.), 2004. Tervuren: Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale. (Studies in Afrotropical Zoology No. 293). 456 pp, numerous colour photographs, line drawings, maps. Hardback. ISBN 90-75894-63-5.
page 175

From 1981 to 2003, scientists of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, undertook some 15 zoological expeditions to the Comoros. The present work, based on these expeditions, gives an overview and (where possible) an inventory of the terrestrial fauna of these four tropical and volcanic islands in the western Indian Ocean. Introductory chapters describe the physical environment (geography, geology, climate, vegetation, human history and habitat modification), and briefly present the characteristics of the fauna and the biological
colonisation of the islands. The penultimate chapter gives an overview of biodiversity threats and conservation legislation and activities. A final chapter presents c.20 noteworthy sites, with suggestions concerning 'animals to see'. The main part of the book (287 pages) consists of chapters on mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, freshwater fish, invertebrates, arachnids, myriapodes, crustaceans and molluscs. A comprehensive bird list indicating each species' status and island distribution is included as an appendix, with other lists of reptiles, mammals, amphibians, freshwater fish and protected species. A list of 'further reading' is provided, as well as a 19-page bibliography and a species index. The book is entirely in French, with only a 3.5-page summary in English.

The bird chapter, by Michel Louette, comprises 110 pages and is thus by far the largest of the book. It contains an extensively annotated list of 116 certain and a few hypothetical species which updates the information presented in the author's previous work on the archipelago's avifauna, published in 1988 (Louette, M. 1988. Les oiseaux des Comores. Ann. Mus. Roy. Afr. Centr. Sci. Zool. 255: 1 - 192). Whereas some species, for which data are scarce, are treated in a few lines, most get half a page or more (with a maximum of four pages for Barn Owl Tyto alba). For the benefit of the international ornithological community, it would have been useful to include the English species names. The text would also have benefited from some more rigorous copy-editing. The Comoros boast 16 endemic species and 22 endemic subspecies, of which six single-island endemics are threatened: three scops owls (Grand Comoro Scops Owl Otus pauliani, Anjouan Scops Owl O. capnodes and Mohéli Scops Owl O. moheliensis) are listed as Critical, Grand Comoro Flycatcher Humblotia flavirostris and Grand Comoro Drongo Dicrurus fuscipennis are Endangered, and Mount Karthala White-eye Zosterops mouroniensis is Vulnerable. The Near-Threatened Comoro Olive Pigeon Columba pollenii occurs on all four islands. Regrettably, these threat statuses are not mentioned in this work, which is rather surprising considering the space devoted to conservation. Most endemics occur in humid forest, with only a few surviving in the non-forest zone. Unfortunately, the human population is increasing rapidly and most remaining primary forest could be lost to agriculture soon, as even very steep slopes are being cleared. It is to be hoped that this attractively produced and lavishly illustrated book - the bird chapter alone contains 57 colour photographs - will get more Comorians involved in conserving the biodiversity of their small but biologically interesting islands.

Ron Demey

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