Hi - with kind permission from Andre here's the proposal he submitted to Wits Bird Club;
THE PEL’S FISHING OWL Scotopelia peli POPULATION SURVEY IN SOUTH AFRICA 2009
Pel’s Fishing Owl Scotopelia peli
(Photo: André Botha)
Compiled by: André Botha
Birds of Prey Working Group
Endangered Wildlife Trust
Private Bag X11, Parkview, 2122
Tel: (011) 486-1102
Cell: 082 962 5725
The Pel’s Fishing Owl (Scotopelia peli) is listed as “vulnerable” (Barnes, 2000) and the South African population is considered to be less than 60 breeding pairs. More than half of this population is believed to occur within the Kruger National Park along the Limpopo-, Luvhuvhu-, Sabie- and Olifants rivers. Additional pairs have also been recorded further west along the Limpopo-, Olifants- and Blyde rivers, outside the Kruger National Park.
Threats to this species include the reduction of water flow in the rivers along which it occurs due to commercial forestation and the damming and extraction of water from such systems for agricultural, mining and other purposes. Increased silt and salt loads in river systems and the destruction of riverine woodland also conflicts with the habitat requirements of this species, currently restricting its distribution to areas where such habitats are properly conserved.
Due to the inconspicuous habits of this species, a decline in its population could go unnoticed. It is therefore important to do regular surveys of this species’ range in South Africa to establish long-term population trends and implement appropriate strategies to address aspects that could threaten this species within its current range in South Africa. The Birds of Prey Working Group of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT-BoPWG) aims to address this need by implementing an annual survey of this species range within South Africa working with Project partners such as SAN-Parks (within the Kruger National Park), KZN Wildlife, land-owners and other NGO’s. Some funding to conduct the surveys within the Kruger National Park has been obtained from the West Rand Honorary Rangers Corps and is sufficient to cover costs for the first year of surveys along at least 2 rivers in the KNP. Further funding is however required to implement the second phase of the Project, namely to expand the survey to all relevant rivers in the Kruger National Park as well as to river systems beyond its borders.
The Project will initially run for a period of three years, but such monitoring should ideally be undertaken annually to determine long-term trends over time. Previous surveys conducted in the Kruger Park indicate that the period May-July is the optimal time of year for such surveys to be undertaken as it coincides with the birds’ breeding cycle in the region and birds are less likely to move out of their territories at this time.
Apart from volunteers sourced by the EWT-BoPWG as participants, there has already been considerable interest, participation and support from the Conservation staff of SAN-Parks to date. This includes making the Bantam aircraft available for aerial surveys of the relevant rivers to identify suitable habitat for this species. The assistance and participation of relevant ranger staff from the Kruger National Park will be needed to conduct ground surveys along the river systems where these birds are known to occur.
The Birds of Prey Working Group
The Endangered Wildlife Trust‘s Birds of Prey Working Group (EWT-BoPWG) is one of the largest EWT Working Groups and focuses on the conservation of diurnal and nocturnal raptors, vultures, and their habitats. A strong scientific component adds authority to the dedicated efforts of our large network of field coordinators. The Group currently manages 28 Projects across southern Africa focused on a range of species and areas. Methodologies are shared, ideas communicated and solutions reached through a collaborative effort that combines science with practical efficiency in order to not only identify problem areas in the conservation of raptors and vultures, but to also reach informed conclusions and act decisively in order to timeously address conservation threats.
To action, support and coordinate conservation projects for nocturnal and diurnal raptors and vultures in southern Africa and to achieve measurable results through considered and informed implementation strategies.
• To combine the efforts of all individuals and organisations interested in or associated with raptor and vulture conservation in southern Africa in order to strengthen conservation efforts.
• To identify gaps in the conservation of birds of prey and their habitats, and to implement relevant projects in order to fill these gaps.
• To set achievable and measurable goals for each project undertaken, and to manage the achievement of these goals, keeping in mind the bigger conservation picture.
Results of recent surveys
Ground surveys were conducted of a section of the Luvhuvhu-river and the entire length of the Olifants-river during May and June 2007 and 2008 respectively. Results seem to indicate that the Pel’s Fishing Owl population along the Luvhuvhu seems to have remained fairly stable over the last 15 years while an estimated decline of 30-40% in the population of this species along the Olifants was found for the same period. Similar trends were recorded for several other species of fish-eating birds.
The outcome of the Olifants-survey in particular seems to indicate that there are a range of factors that impact on the water quality and quantity of the large river systems in the Kruger National Park that need to be addressed to ensure the continued occurrence of species such as Pel’s Fishing Owl.