Once famed for its highly productive breed of Boran cattle, the Liben Plains of southern Ethiopia are in deep trouble – they are seriously overgrazed by cattle, being encroached by aggressive scrub species, and lost due to conversion to cereal crops. These changes have grave consequences for the livelihoods of the local pastoralists and at the same time have pushed the endemic Liben Lark Heteromirafra archeri to the brink of extinction. The Lark may now represent mainland Africa’s most threatened bird species.
|Liben Lark Heteromirafra archeri. Photo: Paul Donald|
The conservation of the Liben Plain rangelands and its fauna requires designing an appropriate habitat restoration strategy that incorporates the traditional Gadda system of grassland management, whilst also mitigating possible adverse effects on rural livelihoods. MMU PhD student Bruktawit Muhamued has been working on the Liben Plain collecting ecological data on this ‘Critically endangered’ bird along with socio-economic information on local livelihoods and lifestyles. Working with Huw Lloyd and Stu at MMU, along with Nigel Collar (BirdLife International), Paul Donald (RSPB), and rangeland ecologist James Bennett (Coventry University), Bruk is creating an important evidence base to find compromises good for both people and the lark.
|The Liben Plains with Boran cattle. Photo: Paul Donald|
|Bruk prepares artificial lark nests. Photo: Huw Lloyd|
Bruk is using artificial nest experimental plots demarcated with hyena dung, which will enable her to monitor the natural restoration of grassland vegetation, and determine the survival rates of the artificial nests. Hyena dung collection has been one of the most challenging aspects of her first fieldwork season!
|Spotted Hyena and the 'white gold' that is its dung. |
Bruk's PhD is supported by Manchester Metropolitan University along with A.G. Leventis Foundation, RSPB and BirdLife International.