A survey of the Western Area Peninsula Forest (WAPF) in Sierra Leone has discovered two new breeding colonies of the Vulnerable White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus, in addition to the 16 sites already known.
The survey was part of a one-year project carried out by volunteers from the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL, BirdLife in Sierra Leone), the University of Sierra Leone, and the government’s Forestry Division, with help from local communities.
The project, funded by the Disney World Conservation Fund (DWCF), also established a network of trained wardens in villages surrounding the WAPF reserve.
White-necked Picathartes is a flagship for bird and habitat conservation in Africa. Its extant population is restricted to the fragmented Upper Guinea forest in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana.
In Sierra Leone, numbers are estimated at 1,400, with populations in forest reserves close to the minimum for long-term viability, and numbers are apparently stable or declining very slowly. The survey established that the number of nests in the WAPF colonies had fallen by 20 percent in the ten years from 1997 to 2007.
Much of the project work was carried out by members of one of Africa’s longest established Site Support Groups, PAGE, the Peninsula Action Group for the Environment. “This group commands considerable respect and recognition among the local communities,” said CSSL volunteer Arnold Okoni-Williams. “Through PAGE’s influence and facilitation, the project team was able to plan and execute project activities with minimal difficulty at all village levels.”