Working for birds in Africa


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 11:31 -- abc_admin

View across Nyungwe Forest Reserve from near the visitor centre at Uwinka.

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

L'Hoest's Monkey in Nyungwe Forest Reserve

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Africa's first National Park, Virunga, was created in north-western Rwanda in 1925 in order to protect the Mountain Gorilla Gorilla gorilla beringei.

Until 1997, some 15% of the country was included in National Parks and reserves. In that year, the largest National Park, Akagera was reduced to 40% of its original size and today, only 8% of Rwanda’s land area is assigned to wildlife. This includes National Parks, Hunting Reserves, Special Reserves and Forest Reserves KANYAMIBWA, S. (2001).

The Wildlife Conservation Society has been heavily involved in surveying Nyungwe Forest Reserve (PLUMTRE, A.J. et al 2002). This was proclaimed a National Park by the government of Rwanda in 2004. It covers an area of about 90,000 ha and is an IBA in which 275 bird species have been recorded. It is one of the most important areas of forest for the conservation of montane birds in the region.

Rwanda has ratified a number of international treaties including Biodiversity; CITES; Convention on Climate Change; and Desertification. Volcans National Park has been designated a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme.

A conservation project has studied the endangered Grauer's Swamp Warbler Bradypterus graueri and the vulnerable Papyrus Yellow Warbler Chloropeta gracilirostris in north-west Rwanda. Grauer's Swamp Warbler had a population of at least 370 singing males at an unprotected site, Rugezi swamp. Papyrus Yellow Warbler was represented by only a few individuals in an apparently rehabilitated papyrus patch.

Conservation News

27th April 2007: Survey uncovers Grauer’s Swamp-warbler nest

Recent surveys of Africa’s Albertine Rift Valley have shed new light on Grauer’s Swamp-warbler Bradypterus graeuri, a particularly vocal Endangered bird that occurs nowhere else on Earth. In the past, adult swamp-warblers have been recorded throughout the Rift Valley, in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Rwanda. Yet breeding and nesting behaviour - two vital facets of information for conservationists working to save the species - remained largely unknown, until now.

“During our routine surveys of the Kabatwa Swamp in the Volcanoes National Park [in Rwanda], we came across a small cup-shaped nest perched in foliage 35cm from the ground. The nest was built from Poa leptocrada and other sedges. To our surprise there were two chicks sitting in the nest,” said Claudien Nsabagasani, Ornithological Researcher with Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) and IBA Focal Point for Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda, ACNR (BirdLife in Rwanda).

“We revisited the Swamp-warbler nest daily from then on to acquire information on nesting and feeding behaviour before the chicks fledged a week later.” The photos of the warbler nest are Rwanda’s first, shedding important light on the reproductive ecology of the species.

The surveyors, supported by funding from RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and DFGFI, had been monitoring Grauer’s Swamp-warbler over four seasons, starting in July 2006, in the Volcanoes National Park, an Important Bird Area (IBA).  “With threatened species, every nest counts,” said Paul Kariuki Ndang’ang’a, the Species Programme Manager at BirdLife Africa Partnership Secretariat. "Information on where the birds choose to make their nests -at what height, and in what foliage– are all crucial pieces of information for those involved in managing and surveying these sites to help secure populations of threatened species.”

Grauer’s Swamp-warbler is listed as Endangered as a result of its very small, fragmented and declining range – a reflection of habitat loss as the Rift Valley’s mountain forests are converted to cultivation and pasture.

 “The swamp-warbler population in the Volcanoes IBA are protected, which is encouraging news for the future of these newly discovered young fledglings,” said Serge Nsengimana, the ACNR Executive Officer. “But site protection remains a critical issue for the species as a whole.” “Hopefully this added knowledge on nesting behaviour will help in our efforts to save this endemic species from possible extinction.” In 2005, an ACNR-led team discovered Rwanda’s first Grauer’s Swamp-warbler nest at Rugezi Swamp, an IBA currently lacking legal protection.

Source: BirdLife International News

23rd October 2006: Teachers and 50 children from Nyabirehe Primary School joined staff from Karisoke Research Center to celebrate local bird life.

The school is close to Volcanoes National Park, one of seven Important Bird Areas (IBAs) identified in Rwanda. The children performed dances and sketches on the importance of bird conservation. The Volcanoes National Park Local Community Warden, Janvier Kwizera, praised the school for its initiative and asked the pupils to be ambassadors in the local population, raising awareness of environmental issues and protection of biodiversity. Claudien Nsabagasani, a researcher at the Center led a birdwatching excursion around the national park and commented: “children were given the opportunity to identify and watch birds in their natural habitat, which helped to create awareness about their importance”.

Source: Birdlife International news

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