afrol News, 23 November - The Kori Bustard, which used to be common in most of sub-Saharan Africa, is being threatened in one of its last strongholds, Botswana, an investigation reveals. In two Batswana national parks, hunting for local consumption and exports was found to be common.
The Kori Bustard is the world's largest bustard and occurs across sub-Saharan Africa. Although still common in some protected areas, it is currently experiencing rapid population declines across much of its range. Botswana remains a stronghold for the species, but it is threatened by habitat loss due to overgrazing and poaching.
The environmentalist group BirdLife Botswana has now undertaken an investigation of Kori Bustard, Ardeotis kori, poaching and found the practice to be widespread in the country. The bustard is hunted both for local consumption and for export to South Africa and beyond, the study found.
The investigation had focused on 16 settlements bordering the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP) and Khutse Game Reserve (KGR) - both strongholds for Kori Bustard in Botswana, Birdlife informed today.
"We found that many Kori Bustards are poached for local consumption, mainly by men over 30," says BirdLife Botswana's Kabelo Senyatso. "Snares are mostly used to kill birds in KGR, whilst guns are favoured in KTP. In some areas only tribal elders are allowed to eat bustard meat."
Consumption of the bustard was found to have long traditions in the areas close to the national parks. "Sometimes a traditional doctor is brought in to 'treat' it before it is eaten, because of a belief that bustard meat can otherwise cause mental illness," Mr Senyatso found.
But the illegal hunting is not only to feed villages along the national parks' borders. "We also found evidence of illegal cross-border trafficking in live bustards. Up to ten at a time are smuggled into South Africa where they are sold as a delicacy to wealthy individuals or exported outside Africa," Mr Senyatso says.
However, on a positive note, the study found no evidence of trade in Kori Bustard body parts within Botswana, unlike other range states. They therefore concluded that there was no illegal market for the threatened bird inside Botswana except in the villages that were poaching.
The global population size of the bustard has not yet been quantified, but ten years ago, it was still believed to be large as the species was described as "frequent" in at least parts of its range. There is however evidence of a population decline which could put the species on the red list of threatened animals within some years.
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