Young Conservation Leaders
In May 2017, a capacity development small grant under BirdLife International’s young conservation leaders’ program was awarded. This grant supported a team of early career conservationist working within Zambia to undertake an ambitious series of surveys “To ascertain the breeding probability of the Vulnerable Slaty Egret, Egretta vinaceigula” in Zambia’s Barotse floodplain IBA and the Liuwa National Park. The team was composed of Chaona and Clara from BWZ, Henry from Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) and Likulunga from the University of Zambia.
The three surveys conducted during the project period were all aimed at improving the knowledge about the Slaty egret’s distribution and habitat utilization within these two IBAs. Furthermore, the team also conducted interviews with local community members and stakeholders such as African Parks staff, fisheries department, local council and DNPW within the project area to get an insight of additional threats to the species and used this opportunity to raise awareness to these groups on waterbird species, using the Slaty Egret as a flagship. Awareness talks varied in format ranging from one on one meetings, group discussions and presentations. In additional to the field identification guides, some A3 factsheets about Slaty egret were used to administer the talks. These were also given to the various stakeholder groups as well as some schools within the project area. The young conservation leaders team also trained local species monitors in both Liuwa and the Barotse IBAs on bird identification, suitable habitat, feeding guild and bird species related to Slaty Egrets. The team also shared some measures to safeguard breeding, foraging and roosting sites with stakeholders and with pupils of the Liuwa conservation club who live very close to the most densely populated Slaty Egret site in Liuwa.
All three surveys resulted in a total of 33 Slaty egrets and thousands of other waterbirds including Wattled cranes, Grey-crowned cranes, Pelicans, Cattle egrets, Glossy ibis, ducks and geese and Saddle bills among others. Through the use of a combination of road, walking and boat transects, the survey team was able to cover approximately 573km of suitable Slaty Egret habitat in Liuwa and Barotse IBAs. Within this perimeter, the team georeferenced various sites utilized by Slaty Egrets as well as established species associations with various species groups such as Cranes. While the team did not find a Slaty Egret sitting on a nest (hard core proof of breeding), they spotted 2 juveniles and mapped suspected breeding sites. It is our hope that we can employ the use of radio telemetry as the next phase of the project as that will be the surest way to confirm breeding activity in the project area.
A not so great highlight from the surveys is the high number of threats faced by a variety of water bird species. Habitat loss is at the top of the list with an increasing number of rice field and settlements within the floodplain were reported by various people interviewed. The traditional harvesting of chicks and eggs from nest locally known as ‘Kuloba Sitaka’ is another major threat to breeding birds around the project area. A lot of reeds from the waterholes are cut and used for construction of households and making barns for cattle.
Wattled cranes in Liuwa National Park
Look out for the detailed survey report on our website and Facebook page in a couple of weeks.
View Slaty Egret Fact Sheet here.
Cyrtobagous salviniae Introduction in the Lukanga Swamp