The start of a new work experience at Kilombero Valley Ornithological Center, as we begin a biodiversity assessment of an African woodland.


Two weeks ago, I left England to set off to Tanzania for my first full time job. I would be volunteering for the Kilombero Valley Ornithological Center (KVOC), working on an important wildlife conservation project in the Kilombero valley. The aim of our project: Assess the impact of a Teak plantation and the increasing anthropogenic pressures from surrounding villages on the highly biodiverse Miombo woodlands in the valley.


The Kilombero valley is home to several rare and endemic species including the Udzungwa red colobus monkey and the Kilombero weaver. Previously, the valley has also hosted large populations of megafauna: elephants, lions, leopards and buffalo. But would we find evidence of their continued residence?


Our survey of the valley would involve large mammal, bird and herpetofaunal surveys. In order to fully assess the changes in the Kilombero Valley Teak Company’s land, a random sample of the area will be taken to survey. The presence of mammalian fauna will be reviewed with setting camera traps and by looking for tracks and scat. Pitfall traps will be used to catch the local reptiles and amphibians, whilst point counts and mist netting will be used to assess my beloved birds.


During the first fortnight of my stay, promising signs have begun to appear, with evidence of both buffalo and leopards in the area. Our pilot studies have also revealed many exciting bird and frog species, including the wonderful pennant-winged nightjar. A fantastic start, but only time will tell if the area’s ecosystem has in fact remained healthy as we complete our biodiversity assessment.


The Kilombero Valley is home to a teak plantation owned by the Kilombero Valley Teak Company (KVTC). KVTC have set aside land for conservation adjacent to their plantations. Our study aims to assess how intact this area is and what biodiversity is also supported in the teak plantations. 

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Our herpetofaunal surveys began well, with several frog species identified.

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All photographs copyright: David Bartholomew


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