Working for birds in Africa

Rare Birds and Ripe Opportunities in Kenya

Date posted: 
Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hope sometimes arrives in very small packages, like the 10 Taita Thrushes that were recently released in the tiny forest fragment known as Chawia Forest in the Taita Hills of Kenya.

That modest addition to the forest’s Taita Thrush Turdus helleri population - which had been estimated at around 10 - represented a potential milestone for a species that is listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and whose total population is estimated at 1,350. It also marked the cumulative impact of years of conservation efforts in the Taita Hills.

The Taita Hills have lost 98 percent of forest cover during the last 200 years, mainly due to clearance for agricultural purposes. The remaining 400 hectares (almost 1,000 acres) of indigenous moist tropical forest is scattered in 11 fragments throughout the district. What remains is under continuing pressure from the densely populated communities nearby.

But those fragments also support numerous rare and endemic plants and animals. “The biodiversity is still there, so it’s not too late,” said Professor Luc Lens, head of the University of Ghent Terrestrial Ecology Unit, who has been studying the Taita Hills area since 1996.

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