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Conservation of the Endemic Liben Lark in Southern Ethiopia

Yilma Dellelegn Abebe Ethiopian Wildlife & Natural History Society

Description of species History and Natural History Conservation work threats Challenges Future

The Liben Lark - Description

Unique amongst larks. Long legs, Long hind toes, long necks and small almost triangular shaped head. Believed to be the ancestor to other lark species and therefore primitive.

The Liben Lark Natural History

Weak fluttering flight Soft flight feathers Pencil thin tails and brief aerial song displays Unable to retract its long hind claws. Range is tiny (not more than 40 sq km) One of 32 endemic species in Ethiopia

The Liben Lark - History

Discovered first in 1968 by Christian Erard. Its status as a new species to science was recognized in 1975. Rediscovered back in 2001. Used to be known as the Sidamo Long-clawed Lark Its status was not known until 2007 when a series of surveys were conducted.

The Liben Lark - History

Currently with a population of not more than 200 individuals and a number of threats it is listed as critically endangered.

Surveys in 2007 confirmed a number of things.
Its range previously estimated at 750 sq km was only 40 sq km. Its population previously thought to be about 2000 birds was estimated to between 90-256 individuals.

Long grass on the Liben plains Ideal habitat for the Liben Lark

Liben Lark Natural History

Very little is known of this endangered and endemic species. Its eggs were first seen and described in 2007 by a group of Ethiopian & British scientists. It lays its eggs on the ground usually under a small herb or clump of grass.


Threat 1 - Agriculture

Threats 1- Agriculture

Threats 2- Overgrazing

Bare areas formed by ants

Threats 2 - Overgrazing

Threat 3 - Bush infestation

Areas with bush and scrub growth Overgrazed but still fair habitat for the Liben Lark

Threat 4 Donkey Carts and Paths

Donkey carts are commonly used for transport on the Dida Liben Continual use creates paths (scars on the plains)

Conservation work
Consulting local people during all steps of conservation action insures success

Conservation work
Bush infestation decreases grazing areas and habitat for birds Bush clearing by local people to increase pasture and habitat for birds

Conservation work
Section of the plains cleared of bush and scrub more suitable as a habitat for the Liben Lark

Conservation work
Former experimental enclosure of 4 ha

A closer view of the enclosure

Conservation work
Enclosure made by locals
Detail of the fencing with thorn branches

Creating rapport with local communities takes lots of time Finding commitment in people Too many stakeholders to deal with Project is always limited in time Expectation from an NGO is high Policies are not supportive

More time is needed to see change _ Projects are always limited to a few years time. We must ensure sustainability of the project
Sustainability has different meanings. It can be associated to our lifestyle. Using no more than our fair share of the planets resources. It is also associated to balancing our needs to the needs of the environment. It can mean living in harmony with the immediate environment we live in.

One good way of ensuring sustainability is to hand over the project slowly to local people
Establishing a site support group. Establishing a concern group that would stand for the environment. Coming up with a system where local people generate a livelihood from nature.

The End
Picture credits
Cagan Sekercioglu Amano Samarpan Mengistu Wondafrash Paul Donald Yilma Dellelegn