Working for birds in Africa

A new ornithological institute in Nigeria

p 61-62

Nigeria is ornithologically the richest country in West Africa because its immense size encompasses nearly all of Africa's major vegetation zones (from lowland rainforest to Sahelian semi-desert) and, at 883 recorded species, almost half of the continent's avifauna. It is also the most populous country in Africa, supporting 120 million people within its 924,000 km2. Almost in the centre of the country the Jos Plateau rises to 800-1,200 m from the surrounding Guinea savanna. Here intensive agriculture, tin mining and accompanying towns and settlements jostle for space among massive granite inselbergs arising from' a wide, open landscape.

The Amurum Forest at Laminga, c5 km outside Jos, the administrative capital of Plateau State, is one of the last remnants of natural woodland on the plateau and still has a rich avifauna. Over 160 bird species have been recorded in an area of little more than 100 ha, among which are two highly restricted endemics, Rock Firefinch Lagonosticta sanguinodorsalis and its brood parasite Jos Plateau Indigobird Vidua maryae, the former described only in 1998. It could soon be a pivotal area for ornithology in Nigeria and perhaps West Africa as a whole, it being the site of a new research facility, the A P Leventis Ornithological Research Institute. Opened in June 2001 with, as the title suggests, very generous funding by A P Leventis - a name familiar within Nigerian conservation circles - the project involves collaboration between the University of Jos, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and nearby Laminga community. The centre is dedicated to the study of birds in particular, biodiversity conservation in general and is the only specialist ornithological institute in West Africa.

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