Thursday, 10 October 2013

Liberia Grey Parrot workshop and Gola Forest

Posted by Stuart Marsden

From 21st to 30th September, Nat Annorbah, Simon Valle and I visited Liberia on grey parrot business. Primarily, we were attending and presenting at the CITES/BirdLife International African Grey Parrot monitoring workshop in Monrovia. This workshop was attended by delegates of the five African countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, DRC, and Liberia itself) participating in the monitoring pilot scheme. I was reporting to CITES and the African CITES authorities on a survey method which has potential right across the huge range of grey parrots. The method is based on the relationship between population density estimates and simple encounter rates – in effect, national park staff or visiting birdwatchers/tourists could report simply the number of parrot groups recorded in a day – and we would be able to convert this to a ball-park density estimate for the area.

Parrot survey training in Gola

Then it was onwards along atrocious roads to the Liberian side of the Gola Transboundary Park. We were joined by Emmanuel Loqueh from the Liberian BirdLife partner SCNL Liberia, and Rowan Martin, a parrot ecologist from UK. We had two aims for the five day visit. First, to assess the status of Timneh parrot Psittacus timneh, the recently split western form of grey parrot. Parrots were rare in the park but we managed to gather data to allow a density estimate and Nat was fortunate to see a flock of around 70 birds feeding on oil palm (as they do) inside the park. Our second aim was to train the park rangers and Site Support Group in parrot, hornbill and turaco monitoring methods. This went well and we thank John Konie and his staff for making us so welcome and for looking after us in the forest.

Nat Annorbah discussing parrot conservation with national park staff

We had generally high encounter rates of birds and primates in the park – much higher than Nat reports from similar Ghanaian forests. Hornbills (including both dwarf hornbills) and Great Blue Turaco were particularly common, while interesting species such as White-breasted Guineafowl, Crimson Seedcracker, and the desirable Gola Malimbe were also seen.

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