Marabou Stork populations slump in West Africa
Recently published research has estimated that the West African range of Marabou Stork has halved in recent decades, with almost two-thirds of known nesting colonies having disappeared from the region since 2000.
The resulting fragmentation of Marabou Stork's range has left a metapopulation of likely no more than 100 breeding pairs in The Gambia and Benin and an unknown number of breeders in Cameroon, where conflict has limited access to areas where the species was previously recorded.
Marabou Stork's West African range has more than halved (Artur Stankiewicz).
In the past 50 years, climate and land use change in West Africa have combined to create serious conservation challenges. Annual rainfall has generally decreased since the mid-twentieth century, and the land area of agriculture in the region more than doubled between 1975 and 2013 due to increased mechanisation and rapid human population growth, which has also resulted in urban expansion. Many wildlife populations have consequently declined due to associated habitat loss and exploitation, although in some cases agricultural development such as rice fields has compensated for natural habitat loss for waterbirds.
The decline in West Africa represents a marked contrast to elsewhere in Marabou Stork's sub-Saharan range, where it has remained or become abundant.
On the basis of their conclusions, authors Jonah Gula and Clive Barlow have recommended that the West African population of Marabou Stork should be listed as regionally Critically Endangered and that a working group should be formed to aid in assessing threats, as well as implementing research and conservation action.
There is, they say, a particular need to address illegal trade of Marabou Storks; firstly, by raising awareness about the replacement of vultures with Marabou Storks in belief-based uses, and secondly by enhancing the awareness among traditional healers about plants that can be used to treat the same ailments for which Marabou Stork parts are being used.
Gula, J, & Barlow, C. 2022. Decline of the marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer) in West Africa and the need for immediate conservation action. African Journal of Ecology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/aje.13087