The Critically Endangered Djibouti francolin Pternistris ochropectus (previously of the genus Francolinus) inhabits two mountainous areas in Djibouti, east Africa. It is considered to be highly threatened because its population decline has exceeded 90% in the last 20 years and is still declining. The species stronghold is the Forêt du Day in the Goda Massif where it is thought to be only about 14-15km2 of suitable habitat, woodland dominated by juniper trees. The population in this area was estimated at 500-1000 birds in 1998, with an unknown number in the Mable Mountains.
Project commenced: 2004
WPA supported an expedition in 1998 to determine the conservation status of the francolin. However there had been little concerted effort since and concern heightened over the years as the deteriorating status of the habitat became evident. Therefore in 2004, WPA initiated a project to critically assess the situation as the basis for a concerted recovery plan.
Juniper forest is considered the key habitat for the species as food and shade are available, particularly in the hot and dry summer months, therefore the juniper forest throughout a significant part of the Goda Massif was surveyed for francolins.
- 612-723 adults in Forêt du Day
- 65% of the juniper trees were dead and 30% were dying
The state of the juniper trees are probably caused by a combination of factors including over-grazing and climate change. The slope forest largely consists of sub-dominant tree species appears healthy, although juniper trees were dying. It was clear that more work was needed to understand the effects on the francolin.
In 2007 further research was conducted into:
- population size
- habitat use and quality
- attitudes and perceptions of local people
The project focused on the plateau areas in the Goda Massif, which holds most of the remaining juniper forest and a large proportion of francolin activity.
- juniper forests were healthier at higher altitudes, but even the healthiest were 50% dead. This was likely caused by climate change and exacerbated by grazing pressure
- the forest ecosystem is changing from juniper trees
- francolins are still seeking areas of remaining juniper cover
In 2008 further research was conducted into the Mabla Mountain population to:
- confirm presence
- derive a population estimate
- population density slightly lower than at Forêt du Day
- satellite images suggest that there could be more francolin-suitable habitat on Mabla
- initial population estimate of 108 birds
- francolin habitat here does not include juniper trees, suggesting the decline of juniper trees at Forêt du Day may not be critical
- less human pressure occurring than at Forêt du Day
The Mabla population is important because its existence reduces the risk of species extinction should any disaster befall the main Forêt du Day population. Future work will continue to monitor the two populations and work towards regenerating the juniper forest by establishing a tree nursery run by local people.