Justification of Red List Category
This huge African bustard is suspected to be undergoing moderately rapid population declines across much of its range owing to a variety of threats including collisions with power lines, hunting and habitat degradation. It has consequently been listed as Near Threatened.
The global population size has not been quantified, but the species is reported to be still common where undisturbed (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The population in South Africa has been estimated at 2,000-5,000 birds (Barnes 2000).
Senyatso et al. (2012) found that the Extent of Occurrence contracted by 21% in East Africa and 8% in southern Africa since the late 19th century, and there was extensive qualitative evidence for an overall population decline, with considerable pre- and post-1970 population declines in all range states except Zambia and Angola, as well as ongoing changes in the internal characteristics of this species’s range, at least since the early 20th century. In Tanzania, encounter rates dropped considerably since the 1970s outside of national parks in areas such as the Kilimanjaro plains, Lolkisale and Monduli plains, Arusha Chini, Loliondo (N. Cordeiro in litt. 2013). In the South African Karoo the species experiences high levels of mortality owing to collisions with power lines, and collision rates in Namibia are also thought to be extremely high. Estimates of 534 (95% CI 139-931) birds killed annually in the Karoo alone (rising to 721 [95% CI 188-1,256] birds when adjusted for observer search bias) are worryingly high given that the total South African population has been estimated at just 2,000-5,000 birds (Shaw 2013). Although comparison of road census data in the Karoo from the 1980s and 2000s did not find evidence of a decline, it is possible that the area is acting as a population sink for this locally nomadic species (J. Shaw in litt. 2013). Overall trends are hard to piece together, but given the qualitative evidence for range-wide declines, it seems reasonable to suspect that the species is undergoing ongoing declines of 25-29% in 47 years (three generations).
This species has an extremely large but disjunct range in sub-Saharan Africa. occurring from Ethiopia and Somalia south to Tanzania, and from southern Angola and Zimbabwe south to South Africa. Declines in its overall range over the past century appear to have been relatively modest, but it has apparently undergone considerable population declines in all range states except Zambia (few records) and Angola (Senyatso et al. 2012).
It occurs in flat, arid, mostly open country such as grassland, karoo, bushveld, thornveld, scrubland and savanna but also including modified habitats such as wheat fields and firebreaks (del Hoyo et al. 1996). In Kenya at least, birds may move into woodland in the dry season. The diet includes a wide range of plants and animals including insects, reptiles, small rodents, birds, carrion, seeds, berries and roots (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is largely sedentary, but does undertake local movements.
Collisions with high voltage power lines are a major threat in the Karoo of South Africa and in Namibia, and presumably elsewhere where there are power lines within the range (J. Shaw and R. Coetzee in litt. 2013). Kori Bustards were the second most commonly recovered bird after Ludwig’s Bustard on extensive mortality surveys in the Karoo, with720 (95% CI 190-1,260) estimated to be killed annually on transmission lines in the Nama Karoo alone (Shaw 2013). Declines in Tanzania can probably be attributed to trade in the species during the 1990s and 2000s (N. Cordeiro in litt. 2013). There is also anecdotal information from South Africa indicating that the species is used in the muti (traditional medicine) trade, hunted for bush meat, and illegally kept as pets (R. Coetzee in litt. 2013). The causes of population declines and range losses in many parts of the distribution are unknown, but have been hypothesised to include persecution, rangeland degradation and shrub encroachment (Senyatso et al. 2012). In Botswana, unregulated hunting appears to be a genuine threat while cattle-induced bush encroachment is not (Senyatso 2011).
Conservation and research actions underway
CITES Appendix II. The species is legally protected in many range states.
Conservation and research actions proposed
Continue to raise awareness to stop hunting for bushmeat and traditional medicine, and to encourage the public to report mortality from power lines. All new infrastructure (power lines, wind turbines) should be sited and mitigated appropriately, and dangerous sections of line should be retrofitted with appropriate mitigation. Carry out further research into mitigation measures for power line collisions.
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Symes, A. & Westrip, J.
Coetzee, R., Shaw, J. & Cordeiro, N.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Ardeotis kori. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/03/2023.