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Monday, 19 November 2012

"Q" is for Quelea

CCF has carried out a number of camera trapping surveys, and also maintains a network of cameras positioned for ongoing monitoring of the wildlife on our land.  While we are mainly focused on cheetahs, there are many other species out there, and the cameras will trigger no matter what passes them by.  In this series of weekly blog entries, I will use these pictures to illustrate some of the wealth of animal life in Namibia - one species per week.  I hope you will enjoy seeing a little more of our world here in the bush.

Q is for… human wildlife conflict on a MASSIVE scale.  Sometimes described as Africa's most hated bird, the diminutive Red-Billed Quelea stands just 13 cm (5") tall yet is responsible for more than $50 million US dollars of agricultural damage every year.  Tens of millions are culled on an annual basis using chemical sprays, high explosives, and even flamethrowers. Yet despite the massive effort to reduce the population, it remains stable, with a range spanning 20% of the total area of Africa. Evidence suggests it may in fact be the world's most numerous bird species. The IUCN lists them as Least Concern. 

Although individually small, and consuming just 10g (0.35 oz) of grain per day, flocks can number in the millions, eating tens of tons of grain every single day. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization lists them as one of the most significant threats to grain production in Africa.  Annual international conferences are held to address control methods, but so far all efforts to reduce the impact of the quelea on African grain crops have met with failure.

In the part of Namibia where CCF is based, the landscape is too dry to support large scale grain crops.  We are surrounded by game and cattle farms and the flocks of Red-Billed Queleas that we see are small, numbering in the hundreds.  Since they can also eat insects and wild seeds, there is still plenty for them to eat, but not enough to support the massive flocks seen elsewhere. 

Queleas are monogamous, with each couple laying up to 5 eggs per breeding season.

Although too small to trigger camera traps unless they pass very close to the sensor, queleas are sometimes seen in the background when other, larger animals pass by.

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