This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2015.
Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami occurs from southern Mauritania, Senegal and the Gambia, east to Eritrea and Ethiopia, and south to the extreme southern tip of Mozambique, South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. It is currently classified as Near Threatened under criteria A2bcd+3bcd+4bcd, on the basis that it is undergoing a moderately rapid population decline (approaching 30% over three generations [c.31 years]), owing to hunting pressure and the conversion of its grassland habitat for agriculture.
Although very widely distributed, it has suffered population declines throughout much, if not all, of its range (Urban et al. 1986). The Rift Valley in Kenya was formerly regarded as its stronghold, but there are now probably fewer than 300 in all of Kenya (L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Its range has contracted in this country (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and it appears to be undergoing a genuine population decline, such that it is now considered the most endangered of its family in Kenya (Lewis and Pomeroy 1989). There have been very few recent observations of this species in Niger (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012) and the population is also claimed to have fared badly in the rest of West Africa due to the large human population (J. Brouwer in litt. 2012). There are reported to be fewer than 10 records for the whole of Gambia since 1979 (Barlow et al. 1997). There is likely to have been a population decline in Uganda over recent decades, with few records of this species since 1970 (Carswell et al. 2005). There have also been declines in Sudan, South Sudan and Nigeria (del Hoyo et al. 1996), it is described as very scarce in Botswana (Penry 1994, Hancock 2008) and there are only 3 records in Ethiopia, on the eastern edge of its range in Sudan, with no records of breeding (Ash & Atkins 2009). In South Africa, studies have indicated that this species has decreased in abundance throughout much of its range over the past few decades (Hofmeyr 2012). Assessments showed that the most important threat posed to the Denham’s Bustard in this region is collisions with overhead power lines (Hofmeyr 2012), and in areas where declines were not reported, it remains susceptible to climate change impacts and changing land-use practices (Hofmeyr 2012). However, it may have adapted to modified habitats in the Western Cape and numbers are said to have increased in these areas (Hockey et al 2005). The species does appear to be doing relatively well in other parts of its range. Zambia is considered a stronghold and it is not known to be especially endangered in this country (Dowsett et al. 2008). Surveys in Chad in 2011 found evidence of more than 400 birds in a sample of 6% of the 77,360 km2 Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve (Wacher et al. 2012), and given that at least half of the reserve contains suitable habitat, population estimates could be as high as 1,500-2,000 individuals (www.saharaconservation.org/).
Additional information is required on this species’s population size and trends, and on the severity of threats throughout its range. If there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the global population has declined by at least 30% over the past three generations (c.31 years), it would warrant uplisting to Vulnerable under criterion A2 of the IUCN Red List. If the population has declined by at least 50% over this period, it would qualify as Endangered.
Ash, J. and Atkins, J. (2009) Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea. London, UK: Christopher Helm.
Barlow, C., Wacher, T. and Disley, T. (1997) A Field Guide to Birds of The Gambia and Senegal. East Sussex, UK: Pica Press.
Carswell, M., Pomeroy, D., Reynolds, J. and Tushabe, H. (2005) The Bird Atlas of Uganda. Oxford, UK: British Ornithologists’ Club & British Ornithologists’ Union.
del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.
Dowsett, R. J., Aspinwall, D. R. and Dowsett-Lemaire, F. (2008) The Birds of Zambia. Belgium: Tauraco Press and Aves.
Hancock, P. (2008) Denham’s Bustard. In: Hancock, P. (ed.), The status of globally and nationally threatened birds in Botswana, 2008., pp. 18. BirdLife Botswana.
Hockey, P. A. R., Dean, W. R. J. and Ryan, P. G. (2005) Roberts Birds of Southern Africa, VIIth ed. Cape Town, South Africa: The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.
Hofmeyr, S. (2012) Impacts of environmental change on large terrestrial bird species in South Africa: insights from citizen science data. PhD thesis, University of Cape Town.
Lewis, A. and Pomeroy, D. (1989) A Bird Atlas of Kenya. A. A. Balkema: Brookfield.
Parker, V. (1999) The atlas of the birds of Sul do Save, southern Mozambique. Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa: Avian Demography Unit and Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Penry, H. (1994) Bird Atlas of Botswana. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press.
Wacher, T., Newby, J., Molcanova, R., Bourtchiakbe, S., and Hassan, M. (2012) Wildlife and land use survey of the Ouadi Rimé- Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, Chad (Part II). September 2011 SCF/Pan Sahara Wildlife Survey. Technical Report No. 7. Sahara Conservation Fund.