The Niassa Special Reserve in northern Mozambique is home to the world’s largest population of Taita falcons. Although the site was not part of the range of this bird of prey, 37 individuals were discovered there by researchers from BirdLife South Africa. Conservationists are calling for increased protection of Niassa to protect the breeding population of Taita falcons, Africa’s rarest raptor.
The level of protection for the Niassa Special Reserve in northern Mozambique may increase in the coming months. The protected area, which was not listed in the range of the Taita falcon, is now its main stronghold. Thirty-seven individuals of Africa’s rarest raptor species were discovered nesting on cliffs overlooking the Niassa Forest, the territory where they hunt small avian prey.
The discovery was made during a study conducted in April 2022 by a team of researchers from the South African branch of BirdLife, an international non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the protection of nature and birds in particular. The study was funded by the Peregrine Fund, an organization that works to conserve and breed threatened and endangered raptors around the world. It aimed to accurately assess the extinction risk of the Taita falcon, after the recent disappearance of a breeding population of the species on the rocky cliffs of Batoka in northwestern Zimbabwe.
Protecting the breeding population of Taita falcons
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), an American NGO whose goal is the preservation of nature in the world and particularly in Africa, participated in this study. And in agreement with the BirdLife South Africa team, the researchers recommend that the level of protection of the Niassa Special Reserve be increased in order to preserve its breeding population of Taita falcons.
Classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list, the Taita falcon, whose scientific name is Falco fasciinucha, is considered the rarest raptor species in Africa. It breeds sporadically from southern Ethiopia to northeastern South Africa. There are however scattered records of small populations in Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa.