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Taita apalis (Apalis fuscigularis)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 12254063

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 12254063) - Taita apalis - Awarded $9,000 on November 14, 2012

The Taita Hills of Southern Kenya are one of the key sites for biodiversity conservation in East Africa, with numerous endemic plants, vertebrates and invertebrates. Unfortunately, in the Taita deforestation hits 95% or more, and human impact is extreme.

This project focused on the two Critically Endangered birds endemic to the Taita hills (Taita Apalis, Apalis fuscigularis and Taita Thrush, Turdus helleri). The entire world range of these two species is less than 500 ha (5 km²). Our longterm monitoring (2001-2015) shows that the populations of both species are declining rapidly. Increasing  the amount of suitable habitat is crucial, and research suggested a promising and simple approach to do that. We found that the threatened birds strongly avoid plantations of exotic trees: these plantations can be reconverted to indigenous vegetation by using restoration techniques.

With this project, we trialled the restoration of indigenous vegetation in plantaions of exotic pines and cypresses in Ngangao forest, one of the most important sites for Taita apalis and Taita Thrush, and the only place where the two species still co-occur.

Circular gaps (10m radius) were opend inside exotic tree plantations. These gaps are large enough to provide new foraging and nesting habitat for the endemic birds. The management of the restored habitat included regular weeding of regrowing seedlings of exotic species for two years, in order to favour the reestablishment of native vegetation.

One year and a half after the removal of the exotic trees, a dense cover of indigenous vegetaion has (re)established itself into the gaps, and both Taita apalis and Taita thrush have been observed in the restoration area. Nesting might occur there in the next breeding season, especially by Taita apalis, which favours regrowing vegetation inside canopy gaps.

With the successfull completion of this project, we now aim at expanding our activity to a much broader area. Large expanses of exotic plantations exist in the Taita hills, and the Kenya Forest Service, who owns much of these plantations, is willing to collaborate in the restoration of indigenous habitat to save the two critically endangered endemic Taita birds. Another MBZ-funded project ("EXPANDING HABITATS FOR TWO ENDEMIC AND CRITICALLY ENDANGERED BIRDS IN NGANGAO FOREST,TAITA HILLS, KENYA") is currenlty underway in Ngangao forest. In this followup project we are using the experience gathered in the previous work to restore an area to about 3-5 hectares ofexotic pine plantation.

More updates on the Project at http://drlivsblog.blogspot.it/

Project documents