Hark! The Lark faces extinction

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Sidamo Lark
London, Apr 16: One of the most ancient and enigmatic birds of Africa, Sidamo lark is facing the threat of extinction. A recent survey has found that just a few hundred of the African larks survive in Ethiopia, which indicates that the endangered bird might soon become extinct.

"This imminent extinction reflects a wider social and political crisis that is repeated throughout Africa," said zoologist Claire Spottiswoode of the University of Cambridge, who led a survey of the bird's habitat and published her findings in the journal Animal Conservation.

The birds inhabit a very small pocket of grassland within the Liben Plain of southern Ethiopia. The Sidamo lark lives within a single patch of grassland of just 35 square kilometres. Bush encroachment and agriculture has damaged the lark's unique habitat.

"If we lose this species then we lose an important ancestral link in the evolution of the entire radiation of lark species," said Dr Spottiswoode.

A survey done on the Liben Plain, the main habitat of the lark found that maximum of 358 Sidamo Larks remain. More likely, between 90 and 250 of the birds survive. These figures are optimistic ones say the researchers.

They have recommended to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to upgrade the bird's status to "critically endangered".

To save the bird from extinction, conservationists have recommended the creation of small plots in which cattle could graze. This would stop damage to the grassland and maintain the grass cover required by breeding females.

Shrubs should also be removed, while a limit should be placed on crops expanding further into the bird's range.

ANI

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