In June of 2017, my boss Trevor Robson returned from a visit to the BirdLife International Secretariat in Cambridge very excited about a chat he had with Nigel Collar. They apparently discussed me and the work I was doing on birds in Zambia. One of those species is the Black-cheeked Lovebird Agapornis nigrigenis a localized parrot restricted to the deciduous Mopane woodlands of South western Zambia.
|The Vulnerable Black-cheeked Lovebird Agapornis nigrigenis (Photo: Chao)|
|Chao and Birdwatch Zambia team counting birds|
|Above: Zambia's Mopane woodland on which the lovebird seems to rely; Below: large Mopane tree turned into a canoe in situ (Photos: Chao)|
Presently, this Lovebird is thought to be Africa’s most localised parrot species with a restricted range of around 5500 sq. km. Within its restricted range, the species is clumped and localised to stands of mopane with large trees and permanent water sources. The naturally formed cavities in live mature Mopane trees are A. nigrigenis’ choice of roosting sites; these double as nesting sites during the breeding season. The roost site location is stable for as long as a site remains intact and undisturbed. This makes the bird extremely vulnerable to land-use/habitat change within its range, especially the with increased cutting of large mopane trees for firewood and timber, as well as agriculture expansion for Maize, Sorghum and Millet which have replaced a large section of the woodland habitats.
|Flooded Mopane - water sources may be key to the bird's survival especially in the dry season (Photo: Chao)|
|Above: An objective of the PhD is to find out how limiting drinking opportunities are for the lovebird; Below: Waterholes are clearly multi-use - a challenge is to find a way that people and lovebirds can co-habit (Photos: Chao)|
The primary aim of this project is to improve significantly our level of knowledge of (and hence our capacity to counteract) the factors that currently limit the global population of the Black-cheeked Lovebird (BCL). At the same time, an important secondary aim of the project is to provide a strong ecological training for me, young bird conservationist in Zambia, as a long-term investment in both BWZ and the protection and survival of the lovebird. To achieve both aims, the project will take the following objectives:
1. To assess and establish the species range, abundance and population using point and transect count methods.
2. To document the state of the species habitat and its associations as well as possible local perceptions regarding the species and their impacts on its distribution and abundance.
3. To identify and monitor a series of waterbodies that are used and unused by BCL using citizen science and remote sensing.
4. To use historical and current presence records (e.g. from 1.) to build species distribution models (SDMs) for BCL to determine the influence of landscape features, habitat and waterbody location on its distribution.
5. To prescribe management strategies using SDMs of future scenarios regarding water availability and suitable habitat.
|It's rare to see our three Loro Parque Fundación parrot PhDers in the same room. L>R Anna Reuleaux (Yellow-crested Cockatoo), Andrea Thomen (Hispaniolan parrots) & Chaona Phiri (Photo: Fraser Combe)|