|Scientific Name:||Turdus helleri|
|Species Authority:||(Mearns, 1913)|
|Taxonomic Notes:||Turdus olivaceus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into T. helleri on the basis of its highly distinct plumage pattern, and reportedly different voice (following Collar and Stuart 1985), T. ludoviciae on the basis of its extremely distinct plumage pattern following Collar et al. (1994) and T. olivaceus (with species limits accordingly revised).|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Critically Endangered B2ab(i,ii,iii,iv,v) ver 3.1|
|Reviewer/s:||Butchart, S. & Taylor, J.|
|Contributor/s:||Bennun, L., Githiru, M. & Lens, L.|
This species is considered Critically Endangered because it has a tiny occupied range of c.3.5 km2, within which its montane forest habitat has been severely fragmented and continues to decline in both extent and quality.
|Range Description:||Turdus helleri is confined to four tiny forest patches in the Taita Hills, southern Kenya: Mbololo (c.200 ha), Ngangao (c.92 ha), Chawia (c.50 ha) and Yale (2 ha) (Brooks 1997, Brooks et al. 1998, L. Bennun in litt. 1999, Waiyaki and Samba 2000). Although there have been reported sightings at Mt Kasigau, 50 km south-east of the Taita Hills, survey work in 1998 did not record the species there (Brooks 1997, Barnes et al. 1999). Research in 1997 indicated a total population of c.1,350 birds, with c.1,060 in Mbololo, 250 in Ngangao and 38 in Chawia (Galbusera et al. 2000, Waiyaki and Samba 2000, Waiyaki et al. 2001), although the effective population size is likely to be lower owing to a male-biased sex ratio. In 2009 surveys confirmed continued presence of the species in Mbololo and Ngangao fragments (M. Githiru in litt. 2008, 2009, 2010).|
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
Waiyaki and Samba (2000) estimate the population to number 1,400 individuals, roughly equivalent to 930 mature individuals.
|Habitat and Ecology:||It is confined to montane cloud-forest (Waiyaki and Samba 2000), not venturing into secondary growth, scrub or cultivated areas (Zimmerman et al. 1996), although the areas where it occurs have been heavily logged in the past (Brooks 1997). Despite much research, very few inter-fragment movements have been recorded (Waiyaki and Samba 2000). It prefers well-shaded areas with a dense understorey, high litter-cover and little or no herbaceous cover (Waiyaki and Samba 2000), and consequently is found at greater density in Mbolobo, the least disturbed forest area, and is rarest in Chawia, which has a more open canopy and a very shrubby understorey (Brooks 1997, Waiyaki and Samba 2000, Waiyaki et al. 2001). It rarely ascends more than 2 m above ground (Zimmerman et al. 1996). The diet is predominantly fruit (Brooks 1997). It is monogamous and terrestrial, with overlapping home ranges (Waiyaki and Samba 2000) and breeding between January and July. The clutch-size is 1-3 (Urban et al. 1997). Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi often occurs in exactly the same areas as T. helleri (Brooks 1997).|
|Major Threat(s):||Most indigenous forest has been cleared in the Taita Hills for cultivation or reforestation with non-native timber, and the remaining tiny area is under serious threat from both clearance and degradation (Brooks et al. 1998, Mulwa 1998, L. Bennun in litt. 1999), although habitat quality in the largest two fragments remains good (Waiyaki and Samba 2000, Rogers et al.2008). A highly male-biased sex ratio in Chawia (only 10% of birds were female) might have significant negative consequences for the subpopulation's long-term survival (Lens et al. 1998, Waiyaki and Samba 2000, Waiyaki et al. 2001). The species's reproductive rate may thus be lower than expected (Lens et al. 1998). Where habitat disturbance leads to deteriorations in body condition, the long-term survival of sub-populations may be put at risk (Lens et al. 2001).|
Conservation Actions Underway
The Forest Department is now safeguarding the remaining forest fragments of the Taita Hills, which have been designated as an IBA. At present, efforts are being undertaken (ban of cattle grazing, enrichment planting with seedlings) to restore indigenous forest fragment Chawia; while it remains to be seen what affect this has on the thrush population, unringed juveniles have been seen. An ongoing collaborative research project includes a large ornithological component, which aims to provide the necessary ecological data to plan conservation policies for this and other endemic species in the area. As part of the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions programme for this species and Taita Apalis, Species Guardian Mwangi Githiru has begun to implement the following actions: 1. Tree nurseries are being established by local community-led Environmental Committees. Indigenous trees will be used to restore degraded habitat and enhance the connectivity of scattered forest fragments, whilst on adjacent agricultural land fast-growing non-native species will be planted to provide a buffer zone. 2. Income-generating activities, including bee-keeping and butterfly-rearing have been initiated and farmers have been educated in environmentally responsible agriculture practices. 3. In order to secure the long-term survival of the Chawia population a translocation project is being developed. 4. Nature Kenya has initiated the development of local capacity through catalyzing the formation of a Site Support Group (SSG) with the aim of enabling local people to constructively engage in conservation of the IBA (M. Githiru in litt. 2008, 2009, 2010). Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to remove non-native trees from within indigenous forest (Brooks 1997), and continue to reforest cleared areas with native trees (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999). Further develop sustainable forest-use schemes, based on ecotourism and harvesting forest products (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999) and outreach programmes to local communities (Brooks 1997, L. Bennun in litt. 1999, M. Githiru in litt. 2008, 2009, 2010). Strengthen the population at Chawia through carefully managed translocations (M. Githiru in litt. 2008, 2009, 2010).
|Citation:||BirdLife International 2012. Turdus helleri. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 May 2013.|
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