Justification of Red List Category
The population in Liberia's Sapo National Park has recently been estimated at roughly 22,000 individuals, based on density estimates and sightings of 34 individual birds (Freeman et al. 2018). However, extrapolated data for the total population must be treated with caution as the species appears to be very rare and localised in the western part of its range (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007). A survey of Cavalla Forest in 2012 did not find any individuals of this species, despite it being previously described as common in south east Liberia by Gatter & Gardner (1993) (Phalan et al. 2013). Additional surveys in the Gola Forest Landscape, in both Sierra Leone and Liberia in 2013 and 2017, found this species to be patchily distributed,with no obvious reason for this distribution pattern (J. Wardill, S. Wotton and F. Sanderson in litt. 2020). Therefore, the overall population size is tentatively suspected to fall in the band of 2,500-9,999 mature individuals, but further population surveys may alter this figure in future.
The population is inferred to be in decline owing to ongoing habitat destruction and fragmentation (Global Forest Watch, 2021; B. Phalan in litt. 2020).
Malimbus ballmanni is confined to parts of the Upper Guinea rainforest block of West Africa in Sierra Leone (Gola Rainforest National Park, where it is considered very rare [E. Klop in litt. 2007]), Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire (first found near but not in Taï National Park), and Guinea (Diecke Forest Reserve, where four groups containing nine individuals have been recorded [H. Rainey in litt. 2007]). Fieldwork in 1988-1989 in the Gola Forest failed to relocate the species, but it was relocated in Gola North in February 2007 (E. Klop in litt. 2007, J. Lindsell in litt. 2007). It has not been seen again in Taï National Park. Field work in Cavally Forest Reserve, north-east of Taï National Park, failed to relocate this species in 2002 (H. Rainey in litt. 2007) (it had previously been found to be common there [Gatter and Gardner 1993]). Surveys in Liberia have shown that it may also be present in western Liberia in an area of 200-300 km2 (population size unknown), including in Gola National Forest and its neighbouring community forest, which is probably contiguous with the population in Sierra Leone (J. Lindsell in litt. 2012, N. Tubbs in litt. 2016), in eastern Liberia (Grand Gedeh/Sinoe County). Several observations have been made in and around Sapo National Park in southeastern Liberia (Freeman et al. 2018). As part of a recent expedition in February 2020, the species was recorded in western Nimba in northern Liberia and in Sapo National Park (B. Freeman 2020, pers. comm.). The eastern population extends into western Côte d'Ivoire (Goin Débé and Cavally Forest Reserves) covering an area of at least 18,000 km2, where it is locally common and the population has been estimated to lie in the region of 20,000-50,000 birds (Gatter and Gardner 1993). However, this estimate is considered optimistic (H. Rainey in litt. 2007) and extrapolated data for the total population must be treated with caution as the species appears to be very rare and localised in the western part of its range (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007). In 1999, two possible sightings from the Krahn-Bassa National Forest region in south-east Liberia may extend the known range of its eastern population westward and southward (Robinson and Suter 1999).
It is found in lowland primary forest, lightly logged high forest and very old secondary forest between 4-20 m (H. Rainey in litt. 2007), where it forages for insects (Gatter and Gardner 1993). The breeding season is seasonally adapted, with indications of a minor breeding season in the short, intermediate dry season in July/August and a major breeding season in October/November (Gatter and Gardner 1993).
Remaining large tracts of forest in Liberia previously suffered intense pressure from commercial logging and a consequent increase in settlement and small-holder agriculture (Anon. 2000). Illegal logging in western Côte d'Ivoire, particularly around northern Taï in Cavally and Goin-Debe Forest Reserves is believed to have become severe after the outbreak of civil conflict in 2002 (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Elsewhere in the Upper Guinea region, forest survives in fragmented patches, which have been under intense pressure for logging and agriculture (Anon. 2000). The remaining habitat in Sapo National Park, Liberia, may in future be at risk from mining activities (Freeman et al. 2018). The impact of climate change on the distribution of this species is estimated to be minimal (Freeman et al. 2018).
Conservation Actions Underway
In Sierra Leone, Gola Rainforest National Park is currently well protected, but the known area occupied by the species is extremely small and the entire range is likely to be much less than the total forest area (J. Lindsell in litt. 2007, 2012). There are attempts to improve the protection of Gola National Forest in Liberia (soon to become Gola Forest National Park) and its neighbouring community forest, where the species has been recorded (S. Jones pers. comm. to N. Tubbs 2015), and ensure connectivity with Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone (J. Lindsell in litt. 2012). Taï National Park in south-west Côte d'Ivoire is one of the largest and best-preserved areas of Upper Guinea forest, but the species's status there is uncertain.
Conservation Actions Proposed
Search rainforest west of Taï National Park to determine whether the species occurs there (Gartshore et al. 1995). Conduct further surveys in Gola North and Gola South, where it may occur in primary forest (E. Klop in litt. 2007, N. Tubbs in litt. 2016). Conduct surveys of the overall population to estimate density. Carry out ecological studies, particularly to learn more of its breeding ecology (H. S. Thompson in litt. 1999) and reasons for its restricted distribution even where it occurs. In Guinea, conduct further surveys of Ziama Forest Reserve to verify rumours of presence, and also further surveys in Diecke to assess its extent of distribution (H. Rainey in litt. 2007). Survey any remaining forest patches, particularly in Guinea Nimba to assess its presence (H. Rainey in litt. 2007).
18-20 cm. Large, black forest weaver with bright golden-yellow crescent on breast and similar coloured vent. Female almost totally black with a shadow of yellow breast crescent. Similar spp. No other malimbe within its range has yellow on breast and vent. Voice Song phrases or calls by males include a series of chattering sounds followed by a wheezing phrase lasting about three seconds cheg chig cheg cheg chega zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, similar to Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus (Gatter and Gardner 1993). Females' song is similar cheg cheg chig chag chaaag cheg chiiig (Gatter and Gardner 1993). Hints Occurs in mixed-bird parties.
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Freeman, B., Hulme, M., Jones, S., Klop, E., Lindsell, J., Phalan, B., Rainey, H., Robinson, P., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Thompson, H.S., Tubbs, N., Wardill, J., Westrip, J.R.S., Wooton, S. & Sanderson, F.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Malimbus ballmanni. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/12/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 02/12/2022.