Ludwig's Bustard (Neotis ludwigii)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925803
Southern Africa is a hotspot of global bustard diversity, home to 11 of the word’s 25 bustard species. Ludwig’s Bustard Neotis ludwigii is near-endemic to the this region, where its range is centred on the vast, dry and sparsely populated biomes of the Karoo and Namib. It is a poorly known bird, with the latest global population estimate of between 56 000 and 81 000 individuals now approximately 20 years old. The species is currently listed as regionally Vulnerable because of an estimated decrease of up to 20% in the population over three generations, stemming largely from mortality caused by collisions with overhead power lines. Because they are large and heavy birds that cover substantial distances, Ludwig’s Bustards are extremely susceptible to these collisions. They are the most numerous bustard species reported killed on South African (Eskom) power infrastructure, and first estimates of collision rates on high voltage transmission lines across the Karoo exceed one Ludwig’s Bustard per kilometre per year. The power grid in this area is extensive and expanding, with nearly 8 000 km of medium-to-high voltage line already in place. In light of the extensive and immediate threat posed by collisions to this long lived bird, there is an urgent need to investigate the impacts of this anthropogenic mortality and to find effective ways to mitigate it.
The Ludwig’s Bustard project is based at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, where it forms part of the Rarity & Conservation of African Birds research programme. During this project, we firstly aim to conduct a new census of Ludwig’s Bustard through aerial and road surveys, and to assess the magnitude of power line mortality across the region through repeated power line surveys, to assess the impacts that collisions are having at the population level. We then plan to use satellite telemetry to to improve our understanding of migratory and nomadic movement patterns in relation to environmental conditions, to try and predict which power lines pose the highest threat. Finally, we aim to investigate mitigation measures, by running a large-scale line marking experiment in collaboration with the Eskom-Endangered Wildlife Trust Strategic Partnership, and exploring perceptual aspects of collision by looking at the visual fields of collision prone birds with Prof. Graham Martin of the University of Birmingham.
Project 0925803 location - South Africa, Africa