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Mount Moco: its importance to the conservation of Swierstra’s Francolin Pternistis swierstrai and the Afromontane avifauna of Angola

  • MICHAEL S. L. MILLS (a1), FABIO OLMOS (a2), MARTIM MELO (a3) and W. RICHARD J. DEAN (a4)
Summary
Summary

The forests of the Angolan highlands are the smallest and most isolated of the Afromontane centres of endemism. Despite their high biodiversity value and small, fragmented extent of less than 200 ha, they remain entirely unprotected. Here we draw attention to their uniqueness and the threats to their conservation. We specifically highlight the importance of Mt Moco to bird conservation and describe current forest cover and condition. Sixty-four endemic/near-endemic species/subspecies and taxa with isolated populations are associated with the highlands of western Angola. All 19 forest-dependent taxa are among the 233 species recorded at Mt Moco, which include a rich diversity of montane specialists. Swierstra’s Francolin Pternistis swierstrai is the only threatened endemic. In 2009, 10 of 30 forest patches at Mt Moco larger than 0.5 ha were surveyed for this species. It occurred in seven of these surveyed patches, at a mean minimum density of 0.95 pair ha−1 in forest patches > 1 ha. Based on extrapolations of this figure, we estimate a minimum of 75 pairs of Swierstra’s Francolin at Mt Moco, and 185–420 pairs worldwide. Due to both limited range and small population size, we propose the species be up-listed from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Endangered’. Total forest cover at Mount Moco in forest patches > 0.5 ha in size is currently 85 ha. This is c.40% of the total cover of Afromontane forest estimated for Angola in 1974. Remaining forest cover at Mt Moco is being eroded by bush fires, removal of wood for fire and construction material, and clearance for subsistence agriculture by the c.330 inhabitants of Kanjonde village. In order to preserve the forest of Mt Moco, we propose the implementation of a protected area and define its boundaries. A similar proposal was made in 1974 for the creation of the Mount Moco Special Reserve.

Resumo

As florestas das terras altas de Angola formam o menor e mais isolado dos centros de endemismo de montanha de África. Estas florestas abrigam uma biodiversidade única. No entanto, em Angola, apesar deste habitat encontrar-se muito fragmentado e ocupar uma área total inferior a 200 ha, nenhuma parcela está protegida. Aqui destacamos a singularidade destas florestas e as ameaças que enfrentam. Em particular, destacamos a importância do Monte Moco para a conservação das aves e descrevemos a posição actual, área e qualidade da floresta que aqui permanece. Sessenta e quatro espécies/sub-espécies endémicas/quase-endémicas e espécies com populações isoladas estão associadas às terras altas de Angola ocidental. Destas, 19 dependem de floresta de montanha e todas elas estão presentes no Monte Moco, onde um total de 233 espécies foram registadas. O Francolim de Swierstra Pternistis swierstrai é a única espécie endémica ameaçada. Em 2009, um censo desta espécie foi efectuado em 10 dos 30 fragmentos de floresta do Monte Moco com uma área superior a 0.5 ha. Esta espécie estava presente em sete dos fragmentos visitados, ocorrendo a uma densidade mínima média de 0.95 pares ha−1 nos fragmentos com áreas superiores a 1 ha. A partir deste valor, estimamos um mínimo de 75 pares de Francolim de Swierstra no Monte Moco, e um total mundial de 185–420 pares. Propomos que o estatuto de conservação desta espécie passe de ‘Vulnerável’ a ‘Em Perigo’ devido à sua pequena área de ocorrência e ao tamanho reduzido da sua população. A área total de floresta presente em fragmentos de área superior a 0.5 ha no Monte Moco é de 85 ha. Isto representa cerca de 40% da área total de floresta de montanha estimada para Angola em 1974. As florestas que restam no Monte Moco estão ameaçadas pelo fogo, pela colheita de madeira para construção e lenha e pela extensão dos campos agrícolas. Estas pressões são exercidas por um única comunidade, a aldeia de Kanjonde com cerca de 330 habitantes. Para salvaguardar as florestas do Monte Moco propomos a implementação de uma área protegida e definimos as suas fronteiras. Uma recomendação similar já tinha sido feita em 1974 com a proposta da criação da Reserva Especial do Monte Moco.

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*Author for correspondence; e-mail: michael@birdingafrica.com
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