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Dwarf Ibis Bostrychia bocagei
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BirdLife Species Champion The Peter Smith Trust
BirdLife Species Guardian Associação dos Biólogos Santomenses
For information about BirdLife Species Champions and Species Guardians visit the BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme.

This species is classified as Critically Endangered owing to its extremely small population which is declining as a result of hunting pressure.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Bostrychia olivacea (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) has been split into B. olivacea and B. bocagei following Collar and Stuart (1985). Dwarf Olive Ibis Bostrychia bocagei of São Tomé differs from African Olive Ibis B. olivacea of West and Central Africa in size (wing of cupreipennis 309-355 mm, bill 83-94 mm, tarsus 58-70 mm, tail 125-133 mm [measurements of Príncipe race rothschildi similar]; wing of bocagei 248 mm [n=5] [i.e. 75%], bill 73 mm [82%], tarsus 52 mm [81%], tail 95 mm [74%]), bill colour (pale brown with pale red on culmen and tip vs all pale to brick red in rothschildi), and coloration of upperparts (lacking greenish and some bronze sheen of other races), plus an evident but still poorly documented difference in voice (rothschildi producing a typical "HAAN-ha HAAN-ha" at dawn and dusk, bocagei remaining mostly silent but occasionally delivering a more equally stressed "kàh-gàh kàh-gàh"). There is good precedent for allowing its specific status (i.e. Chapin 1923, Amadon 1953, de Naurois 1973).

60-65 cm. Small forest ibis. Adult has dull olive head and body with slightly bronzed mantle and wing-coverts. Dark area around eyes and base of bill. Voice Various coughed grunts when disturbed and harsh honking when going to roost.

Distribution and population
This species is endemic to São Tomé, São Tomé and Príncipe, where it is confined to the catchments of the São Miguel, Xufexufe and possibly the Quija rivers in the south-west, and along the Io Grande, Ana Chaves and Lembá rivers in the centre of the island (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). It was known only from historical records and anecdotal evidence from hunters until a confirmed sighting in the valley of the rio Ana Chaves, in 1990 (Atkinson et al. 1991). More records followed: birds were seen in 1996; two pairs, an individual and two nests were seen near the basins of the Rios Ió Grande (200 m asl) and Martim Mendes (100 m asl) in May 1997 in an area where hunters reported killing 16 of the birds 6 months previously (S. d'Assis Lima in litt. 1998); and during survey work in Ribeira Peixe in 2007 (Olmos and Turshak 2007). More recent fieldwork  resulted in 57 observations, including two nests with brooding females, in primary forest in the Monte Carmo area (Maia and Gascoigne in litt. 2010). A survey in July-September 2014 observed 48 individuals and one record of nest building (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). The most recent estimation suggests that the population is >50 individuals but remains extremely small (M. Melo in litt. 2006). It is apparently relatively widely, if thinly, distributed in the south. There is one historical record from the north of the island, but no suitable habitat remains there (Christy and Clarke 1998).

Population justification
The most recent population estimate indicates that it is extremely small, and is best placed in the band 50-249 mature individuals (M. Melo in litt. 2006). This equates to 75-374 individuals in total, rounded here to 70-400 individuals.

Trend justification
Hunting pressure is suspected to be high with a recent report of 16 individuals being killed (S. d'Assis Lima in litt. 2006).

Behaviour: This species is presumed to be sedentary (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Birds usually occur singly or in pairs (Borrow and Demey 2001) but roost together at night and can be identified as they call when flying to and from the roost (M. Melo in litt. 2006).

The species is confined to primary forest below 750 m (Ward-Francis et al. 2015), although suitable habitat could extend up to 800 m. However, it has been found most frequently in recent years at the border between primary and secondary forest, sometimes near palm plantations (M. Melo in litt. 2006). It appears to prefer flatter areas (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Recent observations from Monte Carmo were from mature or old second-growth forest (Olmos and Turshak 2010). It forages on lowland forest floors on areas of bare ground or where there exists a sparse undergrowth of herbaceous plants, bracken and moss, a covering of rocks and large stones or around large trees with extensive buttresses (Christy and Clarke 1998, Olmos and Turshak 2010, Ward-Francis et al. 2015). It is especially found in areas where the ground has been disturbed by wild pigs or in swampy areas bordering watercourses or small oxbow lakes (Atkinson et al. 1991, Christy and Clarke 1998, Borrow and Demey 2001, Olmos and Turshak 2010).

Diet: Its diet consists of invertebrates, snails and slugs (Christy and Clarke 1998).

It breeds during the rainy season (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). A nest was found in 1997 in a tree overhanging water (S. d'Assis Lima in litt. 1998) and a nest found in 2009 was also in a tree (BirdLife International 2008)

Historically, large areas of lowland forest were cleared for cocoa plantations. Today, land privatisation is leading to an increase in the number of small farms and the clearance of trees (M. Melo in litt. 2006). This does not currently affect primary forest, but may be a threat in the future (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). Agricultural encroachment in the more accessible areas of Obô Natural Park was evident in 2007 and 2008, and hunting and palm-wine harvesting were widespread (Olmos and Turshak 2007, 2010), with shelters constructed inside the park (Olmos and Turshak 2010). Hunting may be the most serious current threat; the species is apparently very desirable for its meat and reports include 16 birds being killed in 1996-1997 (S. d'Assis Lima in litt. 2006), and six birds killed on a single occasion by one hunter (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Hunting pressure is believed to be increasing in the Monte Carmo area of the Obô Natural Park, one of the main strongholds for the species, and a group of hunters were found with at least one ibis in April 2011 (R. Grimmett in litt. 2011, Anon. 2011). A recent survey revealed that the extent of hunting was much greater than previously thought. However generally the species was not the target of hunters (whose main quarry was introduced pigs) and was instead taken opportunistically but the survey identified at least one exception where local villagers actively hunt the species (Ward-Francis et al. 2015).

Plans to develop coffee plantations and restore and extend 630 ha of abandoned palm-oil plantations (to cover more than 2,000 ha; ready for harvest in 2013) in the vicinity of the core zone of Obô Natural Park and encroaching into its buffer zone (J. Tavares in litt. 2010) may result in the loss of suitable habitat and potentially have both positive and negative influences on levels of disturbance (Olmos and Turshak 2010). The palm-oil project, however, reportedly incorporates the protection of some primary and mature secondary forest (J. Tavares in litt 2010). New road networks linking oil palm concessions may increase habitat fragmentation and disturbance (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Road developments along the east and west coasts are increasing access to previously remote areas (A. Gascoigne in litt. 2000). Illegal logging in the south of the island has been identified as a further threat (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Introduced Black Rat Rattus rattus, Mona Monkey Cercopithecus mona, African Civet Civettictis civetta and Weasel Mustela nivalis are all potential predators. In particular, recent reports suggest Mona Monkeys may be having a serious impact on productivity. A proposal to construct a hydroelectric dam within Obô Natural Park posed a very serious threat to key habitat for the species, this project has now ceased however future power projects remain a threat (Ward-Francis et al. 2015).

Conservation Actions Underway
Primary forest is protected as a zona ecologica and in the 295-km2 Obô Natural Park, although there is no law enforcement within these areas. The park was established in 1992, but was not protected by law until 2006, and although a zoning and management plan was being developed in 2008, when the first directors were appointed, the park was still lacking sufficient personnel (Olmos and Turshak 2010). A law providing for the gazetting of protected areas and the protection of threatened species has been ratified (M. Melo in litt. 2006). In 2008, a training programme with NGOs Associação de Biólogos Saotomenses (ABS) and Monte Pico was initiated to involve locals in the study and conservation of São Tomean species, and this has since been achieved (Associação dos Biólogos Santomenses in litt. 2010). Research is currently being carried out into the effects of agroforestry and the exploitation of wildlife resources on the island (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Borrow and Demey 2001). In 2013, work carried out by SPEA and funded by RSPB, mapped areas affected by oil palm plantations and surveyed for critically endangered species including Dwarf Olive Ibis (Barros 2013).

As part of the BirdLife International Preventing Extinctions programme, the Species Guardian ABS has begun training local community members in the implementation of site-based conservation; implementing an awareness raising campaign and carrying out field research and monitoring into the ecology, population status and threats to the species (BirdLife International 2008). During an international workshop held in February 2008 to promote ecotourism in São Tomé e Príncipe, birdwatching was listed as an activity that should be encouraged and Ribeira Peixe was identified as a suitable site for a pilot project (Olmos and Turshak 2010). In July 2009, ABS promoted a short course for the training of local people as bird guides at Ribeira Peixe and efforts were on-going to promote the conservation of the area (Olmos and Turshak 2010). The Government are developing an open access database to collate all biodiversity data for the island which will be used to inform land-use decisions (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). A workshop was held in January 2015, which included participants from the Government, to discuss progress towards an International Species Action Plan for the species (Ward-Francis et al. 2015).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Advocacy and awareness raising for species and primary forest protection in São Tomé. Identification of key sites and training of staff to ensure their protection. Ensure that any proposed hydroelectric dam developments are not within Obô Natural Park (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Field research to improve knowledge on ecology, status and threats and mapping of protection zone for the species. Implement a monitoring strategy for the species. Formulate species conservation measures based on research findings and seek wider involvement in their implementation. Incorporate species conservation measures within the Obô Natural Park management plan and develop capacity for park management (Ward-Francis et al. 2015). Ensure legal protection of all remaining lowland primary forest. List it as a protected species under national law and consider establishing a captive-breeding programme. Promote access to cheaper sources of protein to reduce hunting of the species (Anon. 2011). Raise awareness of the species among the hunting community, undertake activities to encourage hunters to avoid taking the species, including through effective enforcement (Ward-Francis et al. 2015).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Anon. 2011. Oil palm concession threatens São Tomé endemics. Wordl Birdwatch 33(3): 7.

Atkinson, P.; Peet, N.; Alexander, J. 1991. The status and conservation of the endemic bird species of Sao Tomé and Príncipe, West Africa. Bird Conservation International 1: 255-282.

Barros, N. 2013. Mapping a palm oil company's effect on local biodiversity in São Tomé and Príncipe. BirdLife Africa Newsletter 13(7): 13.

BirdLife International. 2008. Species Guardian Action Update: November 2008: Dwarf Olive Ibis Bostrichia bocagei, São Tomé Fiscal Lanius newtoni, São Tomé Grosbeak Neospiza concolor. Available at: #

Borrow, N.; Demey, R. 2001. Birds of western Africa. Christopher Helm, London.

Christy, P.; Clarke, W. V. 1998. Guide des Oiseaux de Sao Tome et Principe. ECOFAC, Sao Tome.

Collar, N. J.; Butchart, S. H. M. 2013. Conservation breeding and avian diversity: chances and challenges. International Zoo Yearbook.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Olmos, F.; Turshak, L. 2007. Final report on the fact-finding trip to Angola and Sao Tome and Principe July-August 2007..

Ward-Francis, A., Costa, L., Sampaio, H. and Lima, R. 2015. Reducing the extinction risk of the three Critically Endangered birds of São Tomé. Interim Report AFR-1411 - F14AP00529. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves, University of Lisbon.

Further web sources of information
Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This species has been identified as an AZE trigger due to its IUCN Red List status and limited range.

Click here for more information about the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Species Guardian Action Update

Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Pilgrim, J., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Allinson, T & Ashpole, J

Carvalho, M., Gascoigne, A., Melo, M., d'Assis Lima, S. & de Lima, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Bostrychia bocagei. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Dwarf olive ibis (Bostrychia bocagei) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Critically Endangered
Family Threskiornithidae (Ibises, Spoonbills)
Species name author (Chapin, 1923)
Population size 50-249 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 210 km2
Country endemic? Yes
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species