Conservation of the Congo peafowl - Democratic Republic of the Congo

Africa's only pheasant, the Congo peafowl Afropavo congensis, is endemic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It was discovered in 1936 and remains very poorly known with few confirmed records of the species throughout its range. The species is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because of the lack of recored and the apparent large gaps in its potential geographic range. 

WPA became involved in a collaborative project in Salogna National Park, in the western part of the peafowl's range. 

Aims

  • estimate the population density
  • estimate off take rates and describe the variation in hunting pressure
  • document the diet of the species
  • identify habitat use

The security situation in the DRC is far from secure however the fieldwork site is largely free of rebel soldiers. The road infrastructure is virtually non-existent and so transport to the site involved three days travel by canoe from the nearest airfield.

Methods

  • distance sampling and transects
  • collection and analysis of feathers and droppings
  • interviews with local people

Results

  • the diet of the peafowl is highly varied with both plant and animal material present
  • interviews revealed a strong hunting pressure with eggs collected, poults consumed after hatching and the snaring of adults
  • peafowl use regenerating forest with little disturbance in close proximity to primary forest

Congo peafowl meat is highly prized and a reduction in the levels of off take in the future is highly unlikely without considerable effort. A much better understanding of the socio-economics of avian bushmeat consumption in the DRC is required. One solution may be to help villagers develop alternative sources of local high quality meat.

The study revealed that peafowl use both primary and secondary forest. This finding is important because patches of secondary or regenerating forest connecting fragment of primary forest might increase connectivity and allow the peafowl to move between forest blocks. Such areas of secondary forest could be an important component for a conservation strategy for Congo peafowl.


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