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Back to Africa: IBCP Fellows continue bird conservation research in Ghana

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

25 March, 2022

A Bearded Barbet (Lybius dubius), a resident bird in Mole National Park, Ghana. Photo by Nico Arcilla.

Many national parks in Africa were established with a focus on elephants, lions, chimpanzees, and other spectacular mammals – so how important are these parks for bird conservation? To answer this and other questions, the IBCP team recently returned to Ghana’s Mole National Park, where Postdoctoral Fellow Sandra Goded has led bird research since 2019 in collaboration with colleagues at the Ghana Wildlife Division, University of Development Studies, and University of Environment and Sustainable Development.

To date she has compiled a Mole National Park bird list that includes 174 species, of which 34 are raptors and six are designated by the IUCN as in danger of extinction. These include three critically endangered African vultures: African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) and White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis), the endangered Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus), and the vulnerable Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus).

IBCP and Ghana Wildlife Division collaborators carry out bird surveys in tall grass during the rainy season in Mole National Park. Photo by Sandra Goded.

In addition to documenting bird abundance and distribution, Sandra has led searches for vulture nesting sites in Mole National Park. So far, she has located 17 active vulture nests, including 10 African White-backed Vulture nest and seven Hooded Vulture nests, and observed birds incubating eggs. The presence of three critically endangered vulture species and evidence of active breeding of at least two of these species gives an indication of the value of Mole National Park for a group of birds that are currently among the most threatened taxa in Africa.

In addition, the presence of many wintering Afro-Palearctic migratory birds species shows Mole’s crucial importance for the the conservation of long-distance migratory birds, which are among the most rapidly declining groups of birds in the world. In this sense, birds benefit from conservation efforts aimed largely at protecting mammals and their habitat; everyone wins!

Hooded vultures roosting in Mole National Park. Photo by Sandra Goded.

Now, Sandra has returned to Mole National Park with the IBCP team to continue documenting bird abundance, distribution, and breeding ecology. She is joined by Postdoctoral Fellow Olivier Boissier as well as IBCP colleagues Nat Annorbah, Grzegorz Walczak, and Zebigou Kolani. We can’t wait to learn what they discover, and to use this information to contribute to bird conservation in an important region for birds that is nevertheless largely neglected in bird research. We are extremely grateful to Mole National Park Manager Ali Mahama and his staff for making this collaboration possible, and for their crucial work to protect wildlife in Ghana.

Grasshopper Buzzard (Butastur rufipennis), a wintering raptor in Mole National Park. Photo by Nico Arcilla.

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