Working for birds in Africa


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 13:01 -- abc_admin

Sierra Leone Kambui Hills Forest Reserve

White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus nest and roost site

Image Credit: 
John Caddick
White-necked Picatartes

White-necked Picatartes

Image Credit: 
David Monticelli

Sierra Leone is party to a number of international agreements including Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution and Wetlands.

The country has many issues which impact the environment in common with many African countries such as rapid population growth, harvesting of timber, expansion of cattle grazing, slash-and-burn agriculture which has resulted in deforestation and soil exhaustion, civil war depleting natural resources and overfishing.

The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) is an active organisation with a mission to promote conservation and management of natural resources for sustainable development in Sierra Leone.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and its partner organisation in Sierra Leone, CSSL, and the Sierra Leone Government, will embark on a two-year pilot project with the aim of managing 75,000 hectares of the Gola forests for conservation, in cooperation with local communities.

The Gola rainforests, in south-eastern Sierra Leone, are the last remaining rainforests in the country. They are among the most important forests in West Africa for a range of magnificent, threatened birds and other wildlife. Further information about this work can be found at

Conservation News

14th April 2008: Communities unite to protect White-necked Picathartes

A survey of the Western Area Peninsula Forest (WAPF) in Sierra Leone has discovered two new breeding colonies of the Vulnerable White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, in addition to the 16 sites already known. The survey was part of a one-year project carried out by volunteers from the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL, BirdLife in Sierra Leone), the University of Sierra Leone, and the government’s Forestry Division, with help from local communities.

The project, funded by the Disney World Conservation Fund (DWCF), also established a network of trained wardens in villages surrounding the WAPF reserve.

White-necked Picathartes is a flagship for bird and habitat conservation in Africa. Its extant population is restricted to the fragmented Upper Guinea forest in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with historical records from Ghana - though none since the 1960s.

In Sierra Leone, numbers are estimated at 1,400, with populations in forest reserves close to the minimum for long-term viability, and numbers are apparently stable or declining very slowly. The survey established that the number of nests in the WAPF colonies had fallen by 20 percent in the ten years from 1997 to 2007.

Much of the project work was carried out by members of one of Africa’s longest established Site Support Groups, PAGE, the Peninsula Action Group for the Environment. “This group commands considerable respect and recognition among the local communities,” said CSSL volunteer Arnold Okoni-Williams. “Through PAGE’s influence and facilitation, the project team was able to plan and execute project activities with minimal difficulty at all village levels.” A number of awareness-raising seminars and training sessions were held in the villages around the WAPF, which Okoni-Williams says has resulted in a common understanding and a strong commitment to conserve the species and its forest home.

The major achievements of the project include:

  • A complete database with details of geographic locations and ecological status of the 18 known sites, and population data. This is being used for monitoring and management purposes.
  • A wardening system around all known Picathartes colonies through a network of trained SSG members in 11 communities around the forest reserve.
  • Over 1,000 local people are now aware of the status and conservation needs of the White-necked Picathartes through village seminars, posters and brochures, and radio programmes.
  • Capacity of the project team, PAGE and local communities have been enhanced for sustainable site-level conservation initiatives.

“We are grateful to DWCF for their timely intervention to contribute to saving one the most isolated populations of White-necked Picathartes, for the sake of posterity and overall global biodiversity conservation,” Okoni-Williams added. “We continue to rely on their support on this and other potential conservation programmes in the future.”

The ‘International Action Plan for White-necked Picathartes’, developed by the BirdLife International Africa Partnership, sets out to address the conservation needs of the species through habitat protection and local partnership development, with the ultimate aim of stabilizing and/or increasing the population among range states.

Source: BirdLife International

10th December 2007: Giant rainforest in Sierra Leone wins protection

A rainforest in Sierra Leone has won protection from the country's government for an indefinite period in a move heralded as one of the first examples of a state using forest conservation to cut its carbon emissions.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone is expected today to back the plans to make the 185,000 acre Gola forest, about half the size of London, the nation's second national park. This will protect at least 50 species of mammal, 2,000 different plants and 274 species of bird, 14 of which are close to extinction.

It is hoped that Gola, close to the Liberian border in the south-east of the west African country, will become the flagship site in a network of national parks planned by the President.

The Gola project is being funded by the European Commission, the French Government, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Conservation International.

Source: The Independent

21st June 2006: Gola spared from logging

Gola rainforest, one of Africa's top biodiversity sites, is to be managed to benefit local communities, rather than being logged, thanks to a ground-breaking project implemented by the Government of Sierra Leone in co-operation with two BirdLife Partners: the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) and the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK).

The 75,000 ha Important Bird Area (IBA) forest will be protected from legal and illegal logging. Local people from seven chiefdoms have been recruited by the project to patrol the reserve, and will have a key role in managing the project. The RSPB and CSSL are working with the Government to secure the logging rights to Gola, and are financing development projects such as the construction and repair of schools and other community buildings that will directly benefit up to 100,000 local people. A fund will be established to meet the cost of managing the forest for biodiversity for the long term, and to support continuing community development programmes.

His Excellency Alhaji Dr Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, President of Sierra Leone, commented: "This is a new approach in forest protection that will address not only the protection of the forest and its biodiversity, but will also provide sustainable benefit to the local community in perpetuity."

More than 270 bird species, including 14 globally threatened are found at Gola. They include Rufous Fishing-owl Scotopelia ussheri, Gola Malimbe Malimbus ballmanni (both Endangered), and the Green-tailed Bristlebill Bleda eximius and White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus (both Vulnerable), the latter a charismatic species recognised as a symbol of African conservation. Gola is also important for threatened mammals including pygmy hippopotamus, forest elephant and zebra duiker.

Source: BirdLife International News

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