Date of this Version
McCollum, K.R., Belinfonte, E., Conway, A.L. & Carroll, J.P., 2018, ‘Occupancy and habitat use by six species of forest ungulates on Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone’, Koedoe 60(1), a1484.
Forest ungulates in West Africa are common bushmeat species and are subject to habitat degradation through deforestation. Based on historical data, there are possibly 12 species of forest Bovidae and Tragulidae found in eastern Sierra Leone. We used camera trapping to assess occupancy by forest ungulates on and around a small protected area, Tiwai Island, Sierra Leone. We then assessed habitat over two field seasons during 2008–2011 for those species where we had sufficient numbers of detections. We detected 6 of 12 potential species and obtained enough data to further assess the habitat of two species. Species detected included the black duiker (Cephalophus niger), bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus), bushbuck (Tragelaphus scriptus), Maxwell’s duiker (Philantomba maxwellii), water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus) and yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor). Among detected species, the bongo is considered near threatened. Several of the species not detected might be extirpated from the region, but for several species we found no records of them in the area. For the two species with sufficient detections for analysis, we found that Maxwell’s duikers were common throughout woody and swamp habitat and yellow-backed duikers preferred old growth forests with open understory. Despite widespread deforestation in Sierra Leone, a recent civil war and continued bushmeat trade, it appears that small wildlife refuges such as Tiwai Island continue to provide sanctuary for many of the forest ungulates of the region.
Conservation implications: The Guinea Rainforest ecosystem of West Africa has undergone significant human impact and deforestation, negatively impacting all aspects of the biodiversity of the region. In addition, a long-standing civil war in Sierra Leone further exacerbated conservation concerns of many wildlife species. There are some recognised reserves in Sierra Leone, but small reserves managed by local people and conservation organisations have a role to play. Our work on Tiwai Island, along the Moa River in Sierra Leone, demonstrated that a significant proportion of the forest dwelling ungulate biodiversity of the region has been maintained in a small reserve despite isolation and effects of the war. Our work also suggests that Tiwai Island continues to have significant ecological value for ungulate conservation in the region and should be considered a model for establishment of other small reserves to help maintain the region’s biodiversity.