At the end of September 2016, Togo added a new bird species to its official list. It is the Speckle-fronted Weaver (Sporopipes frontalis), a small bird detected in Le Centre de Formation Rurale de Tami (CFRT) (Rural Training Center of Tami), in the northwest of the country, during the bird census realized as part of the project Vuela con Tami, leaded by the organization PROYDE.
The Speckle-fronted Weaver, which has the size of a Goldfinch, belongs to the Weavers family. Its design is particularly striking: its crown and forehead feathers are black with white tips, which give it a speckled effect, and the chestnut-browned nape contrasts with the white and grey of the body. Sexes are alike. This species has a Sahelian distribution and extends from Mauritania to Ethiopia,although there is a subspecies, with slight differences, that is distributed between Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Sudan. The species had also been observed in Benin,in lower latitude than the CFRT one, which suggested its possible presence in the northern region of the Savanes, although it has not been confirmed up to now.
On September 29th, a pair of birds, potentially a couple based on their behaviour, was seen close to the reservoirs of the northern end of the CFRT. In the following days there were six more observations, always a pair of birds, until October 9th, the date of the last fieldwork.
Along with the White-billed Buffalo-weaver (Bubalornis albirostris) -another species of Weaver detected for the first time in Togo, in May 2013, in the CFRT and within the framework of the same project- two species have already been added to the long list of birds of this African country. This list includes 627species, soon 628 with the addition of the Speckle-fronted weaver. Even though Togo is a small country, the 124th in the world regarding to its surface area, its bird diversity, according to the diversity of environments, places the country at the 61st position in order of relevance, above countries such as Spain, which is nine times larger, or Canada, the second largest country in the world. Togo is also above its neighbours Benin and Burkina Faso, five and two times bigger respectively, but not above Ghana which records 745 bird species even though is four times greater thanTogo.
The CFRT, a farm of just one square kilometre of surface, has a notorious wealth of birds:over three intensive censuses carried out within the project Vuela con Tami-May 2013, March 2016, and September/October 2016- about160 species of birds have been detected. This number represents 25% of the identified species throughout the country. The key to this great diversity surely relies in the mosaic structure of the farm, where natural and anthropic elementsas agricultural fields, reservoirs, wooded footpaths and scraps of gallery forests, coexists with certain tranquillity. A diversity of environments concentrated in a reduced space that represents a remarkable exception in an environment punished by the overexploitation of the territory, where the wooded savannah has been replaced by fields of crops, poorer and less diverse, as a result of the high demography pressure in the region.
This new species is another demonstration of the great biodiversity of birds in Togo,and of the enormous responsibility for the country and for the rest of the world in the conservation of its habitats. The task of education and awareness in a region deeply affected by poverty, together with the research for alternatives to the systematic destruction of ecosystems, are key tools in this process, in which the project also allocates efforts.
BirdLife International. www.birdlife.org/datazone/home. Cambridge, 2016.
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Craig, A. (2016). Speckle-fronted Weaver (Sporopipes frontalis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of theBirds of the WorldAlive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from www.hbw.com/node/60973 on 27 October 2016).
Oliveras, I. Las aves de Tami. La conservación de la biodiversidad en el camino hacia un desarrollo sostenible. Tami–Gualba, 2013.Downloaded at: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByJ2iHexOId9YmhKNUg1bzZDZmM/edi