Archived 2012-2013 topics: Papyrus Gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri): downlist to Least Concern?

BirdLife species factsheet for Papyrus Gonolek Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri has a local distribution in north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, eastern Rwanda, Burundi and western Kenya. It is listed as Near Threatened under criterion B1ab(iii) of the IUCN Red List because it was thought to have a moderately small range, restricted to papyrus swamps, in which it is potentially threatened by the modification and degradation of wetlands. However, the species’s population has been estimated to be approximately 2 million adults (Maclean 2004), roughly equivalent to 3 million individuals in total, and the population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats. In addition, mapping of the species’s range has resulted in an estimated Extent of Occurrence (EOO) of c.99,000 km2. As a result, the Papyrus Gonolek may not in fact approach the thresholds for classification as Vulnerable under the current criteria, and instead warrant downlisting to Least Concern. Information is requested on the population size, range and trend of this species, and comments on the proposed downlisting are welcome. Reference: Maclean, I. M. D. (2004) An ecological and socio-economic analysis of biodiversity conservation of East African wetlands.  PhD Thesis. University of East Anglia, Norwich.

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7 Responses to Archived 2012-2013 topics: Papyrus Gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri): downlist to Least Concern?

  1. Andy Symes says:

    Maclean et al. 2013 show that, between 1984–1987 and 1999–2001 the areal extent of papyrus declined by 6.7 % from 1,643 to 1,532 km2. The authors recommend that Papyrus Gonolek should remain at Near Threatened, but on the basis of past population decline (A2c) rather than a small and decreasing range size.

    Papyrus Gonolek was estimated to have decreased by 20.62% (7.69-42.50% 80% CI) over three generations, based on comparison of data from 1984-1987 and 1999-2001. Rates of population decline were estimated by assuming that relationships between density, occurrence and habitat variables derived from 1999–2001 data, were the same in 1984–1987, and assumed a constant geometric annual rate of decline.

    Classification as Near Threatened is recommended by Maclean et al. since there is a high degree of uncertainty over the estimated rate of decline and thus although the best estimate of 20.62% does not closely aproach the threshold for classification as Vulnerable under the A criterion, it is plausible that the rate of decline could approach or even exceed this threshold.

    Maclean I. M. D., Bird, J. P., Hassall, M. 2013. Papyrus swamp drainage and the conservation status of their avifauna. Wetlands Ecology and Management. DOI 10.1007/s11273-013-9292-8

  2. Jason Anderson says:

    Due to clearance for Agriculture, papyrus is declining at an alarmingly rapid rate across Rwanda. It is being replaced by sugar cane in the main, but also subsistence plots. Another threat is pollution within the papyrus swamps caused by use of fertilizers in nearby agricultural areas that, when the runoff reaches the papyrus it leads to algae blooms that prevent papyrus from rejuvenating. This leads to loss of habitat. This is only a personal opinion from when I lived there from 2007-2009, but my estimate is that Papyrus Gonolek has declined in population size in south east Rwanda by at least as much as Andy states, and probably more.
    Jason Anderson

  3. James Hogg says:

    I currently live in Rwanda (since Feb 12). I would concur with the comments of Jason Anderson. My personal opinion based on casual observation is thus. Within my short time in Rwanda I have noticed that many wetlands are increasingly under pressure from agriculture. Recently I took a trip to one of my favourite spots for birding in Bugasera district. The papyrus swamp in this area seems to be being drained and the overall water level has dropped. I noticed some small fires burning in the papyrus as it was being cleared for agriculture. So the bird may be judged as of least concern, but downgrading its status might send the wrong message with regards to clearing swamps.
    Kind regards, James

  4. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comment was received from Laurent Ntahuga on 14 August 2013 with reference to the discussion on Indicator pumilio:

    I fully agree with Tom and the same thinking can be done for Laniarius mufumbiri for the case of Burundi, where all wetlands are practically being converted into agricultural land, due to the extremely high pressure on land by the local populations.

  5. Joe Taylor says:

    The following comments were received from Claudien Nsabagasani on 14 August 2013:

    The populaton in Rwanda is very limited and wetalands with Papyrus were cleared for agricultural activities and infrastructures. Example: the Papyrus in Rugei Marshwas completelly clleared and the speicies disappeared. Akanyaru and Nyabarongo were also heavily affected by crop production.

    Additional to that no any reseaerch was conducted on the poulation, distribution and ecology of tis species in Rwanda.

  6. Martin Odino says:

    If we are basing Swamp degradation/habitat loss as the justification threat to the Papyrus Gonolek, probably we should include the other Swamp endemics alongside the swamp gonolek (the Vu Papyrus Yellow Warbler notably increasingly becoming less prominent, recorded, unknown to recent Kenyan birders and even arguably already probably disappeared in the Kenyan range) but is habitat degradadtion/habitat loss really to blame? Having worked in Yala Swamp (the largest papyrus swamp in Kenya) and Sio Port Swamp (Smallest Papyrus Swamp) in Kenya between 2009-2011, the Papyrus Gonolek was the most abundant and second abundant papyrus endemic species (after the White-winged Swamp Warbler) at both sites respectively. It is probably the easiest papyrus endemic bird species to come by given its size, flashy coloration and audible advertisement call. Nonetheless, I acknowledge that this does not mean the species numbers may not have declined over the years which is the key criterion for its status.

    I do not dispute that the Papyrus Gonolek is threatened by habitat loss (like are other species) and I believe populations in small swamps are particularly at risk (including K’Oguta & Kusa Swamps but Sio Port which is the smallest seems to be surviving on probably because it is a deeper swamp). In Sio Port, fish farmers are constructing swimming pool sized fish ponds inside the swamp and the trend has been on the rise following stricter fishing regulations on the seeming depleted fish resource in the Lake Victoria; intensive sand harvesting and associated disturbance of the lakeward edge of the swamp may likewise be interfering with the papyrus vegetation hence threatening the existence of the swamp and the inhabiting species. Then again the sharply dipping littoral edge into the lake may be what lacks in K’Oguta & Kusa hence it is easy to reclaim for crop farming.

    But we should also bear in mind that Papyrus vegetation exhibits high regeneration power (I have seen that in my 8 months study at Sio Port Swamp). We should also not quickly rule out the possibility that the Papyrus Gonolek has adapted to be tolerant of man’s invasion thereby managing to survive or be even comfortable in especially bigger, remote swamps which we ought to conserve. In my short experience, a higher threat status of a bird/animal species has not automatically brought about the conservation of its habitat even if that is its leading threat.

  7. Neil Baker says:

    I noted that BL do not include Tanzania in the range of this species, not sure why. It occurs along the lower reaches of the Kagera River where the papyrus is quite wide in places and > 100km long and at a guess, little threatened although only in the extreme NW within Ibanda Arena GR is this habitat actually protected. It occurs in Tanzania opposite Akagera and the land pressure here is far less than in Rwanda,and becoming less so as many Rwandan refugees return home. Extensive habitat also exists around the lakes east of the border in the region of -2.02407 / 30.92465 much of which is protected. There are also extensive areas of papyrus in Lake Burigi at -2.03729 / 3124594, again much of this is protected in Burigi GR.

    There are extensive swamps along the shores of Lake Victoria totaling many km2 that have not been surveyed. In particular along the lower reaches of the Mara River at -1.53509 / 34.14514 and Smith Sound in the south -2,78713 / 32.90343 (that are known for other papyrus endemics). Additional to these are rather many smaller papyrus swamps that would have qualified as IBAs if the Kenya criteria was applied.

    There are large papyrus swamps in western Tanzania in the drainage basin of the Malagarasi River (-3.94847 / 31.01084) that have not been surveyed. IF, and its a big IF, this bird occurs in this drainage basin then it is probably doing OK.

    Does it occur along this river drainage in Burundi ?

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