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Making new discoveries in Togo: birds in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

21 September, 2023

Lin-Ernni Mikégraba Kaboumba, Olivier Boissier and Yendoubouam Kourdjouak with rangers in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park, using natural insect repellent. Photo by Lin-Ernni Mikégraba Kaboumba.

Fazao-Malfakassa National Park is the largest protected area in Togo, West Africa, but to date has received little attention from ecologists. In 2023, the IBCP team continued field surveys for birds in this park, led by Olivier Boissier, Lin-Ernni Mikégraba Kaboumba, and Yendoubouam Kourdjouak, together with many hardworking park rangers.

Great Blue Turaco. Photo by Bernard Dupont, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The team spent over five weeks in the park, revisiting some areas visited last year and exploring new ones, documenting a total of 228 bird species so far. One of their most exciting finds was the Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata), a spectacular forest species highly threatened in West Africa. This and their other discoveries included 21 new species for the park, which will be detailed in a forthcoming manuscript that Olivier Boissier is working to prepare.

A view inside Fazao-Malfakassa National Park near Assoukoko. Video by Yendoubouam Kourdjouak.

The team also observed Black Bee-eaters (Merops gularis) in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park as well as the adjacent Kyabobo National Park, Ghana. This and several other species encountered were outside of their previously known ranges, highlighting the area’s biological richness and importance.

Black Bee-eater. Photo by Francesco Veronesi, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unfortunately, the park rangers who assisted our research contend with serious challenges. Even in the most remote places we explored, wildlife and habitat are under considerable pressure from poaching and habitat destruction. Detrimental illegal activities in the park include the destruction of trees for commercial charcoal production and harvesting wild honey, as well as the grazing of large herds of cattle. Plantations for cash crops such as yams and cashews and accompanying herbicides and pesticides are also increasingly encroaching inside the park’s boundaries.

Landscape inside Fazao-Malfakassa National Park near Kpaya. Photo by Lin-Ernni Mikégraba Kaboumba.

IBCP is deeply grateful to the government of Togo and the University of Lomé for the opportunity to survey birds in Fazao-Malfakassa National Park and raise awareness about conservation needs. To this end, we took the opportunity to deliver new posters of the birds of the national park to park authorities and rangers at each station visited, in support of ongoing efforts to protect this incredible biodiversity for future generations.

Fazao-Malfakassa rangers and IBCP team members pose with new bird poster. Photo by Lin-Ernni Mikégraba Kaboumba.

We particularly acknowledge Professor Komlan Afiademanyo and Park Conservators Captain Tchabanna Ouro-Agpandao and Lieutenant Komi Mawunya Gbemou for their help and support. Special thanks also go to all the rangers who assisted us, including: Pyabalo Ahe, Koutaro Bodjona, Nabagbagma Nambila, Tchilabalo Meba, Bénoît Tchagaou, Alexe Dare, Koumarka Awina, Nadjombé Gafo, Kodjo Tchamon Assïa, Ali Kondem, Salissou Yacobou, Essomana Takpeke, and Essoyomewe Babatom.

Fazao-Malfakassa National Park protects some of the last forests in Togo, shown here near Tassi. Photo by Pyabalo Ahe.

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