Justification of Red List Category
Although more common and widespread than previously thought, and not dependent solely on primary habitat, this species still has a small range, within much of which its woodland habitat is being altered and fragmented. Moderately rapid population declines owing to habitat degradation and hybridisation with White-cheeked Turaco T. leucotis are continuing, and the species is therefore classified as Vulnerable.
In 1995, the population was estimated at c.10,000 individuals. However, rapid changes to its habitat between 1995 and 2007 are likely to have caused a decline in the population, and it is now expected to number fewer than 10,000 individuals (L. Borghesio in litt. 2007), so placed in the band 2,500-9,999 mature individuals.
The population is suspected to have declined by c.10-30% between 1995 and 2007, owing to rapid changes to the species's habitat (L. Borghesio in litt. 2007). Based on this information, the population is estimated to have experienced a slow to moderate decline in the last ten years. Declines are likely to increase in future in line with rapidly increasing human pressure on the area (L. Borghesio in litt. 2012).
Tauraco ruspolii has a very restricted range in southern Ethiopia, around Arero, Bobela, Sokora, Negele and Wadera (Turner 1997). Fieldwork in 1995 found the species in all previously known localities and in some previously unreported sites (Borghesio 1997a). The northern part of the species's distribution encompasses the woodlands of Anferara-Wadera and adjacent Bore-Anferara, where it is not uncommon in suitable habitat (EWNHS 1996). In the central part of the range, the woodlands bordering Sede and Lela Lemu forests may stil be fairly intact, and support high densities of the species. It is more common and widespread than was formerly believed (Turner 1997), but may never have occupied a much wider range than today (Borghesio 1997a), due to its restricted altitudinal distribution. In 1995, the population was estimated at c.10,000 individuals (Borghesio and Massa 2000). However, rapid changes to its habitat between 1995 and 2007 are likely to have caused a decline in the population of around 10-30%, and it is now expected to number fewer than 10,000 individuals (L. Borghesio in litt. 2007).
This species is an arboreal frugivore and has been found at the edge of Juniperus-Olea forest, in mixed conifer-broadleaved woodland, and riverine tree formations. It is most common at mid-altitudes (c.1,500 m [EWNHS 1996]) in habitats with relatively low humidity, and intermediate between lowland thorn-bush and montane forest (Borghesio 1997a, 1997b). The diet includes fruits of Ficus, Juniperus and Podocarpus (Borghesio 1997b). Birds may undertake seasonal movements of a few kilometres (Borghesio 1997a). Hybrids between T. ruspolii and White-cheeked Turaco T. leucotis have been observed, most commonly in edge habitats (Lernould and Seitre 2002, Borghesio et al. 2004).
Surveys in 1989 and 2003 revealed habitat loss and a decline in habitat quality at some sites (Borghesio et al. 2004). Human pressure is probably to blame for the decline of the species around Arero, with fires being reported in neighbouring woodland areas in March 1994. Agricultural expansion was found to be the main cause of habitat degradation in the north, but overgrazing and uncontrolled bushfires were more important in the south (Borghesio et al. 2004). Rates of illegal logging and agricultural expansions are increasing in the Sede and Lela Lemu area, and rates of habitat destruction will likely increase with the upgrading of the road system to support the expansion of the mining industry (L. Borghesio in litt. 2016). The road from Kibre Mengist to Negele is being tarmacked and this will cause an expansion of human activities, while there are already large mines south of Shakiso (L. Borghesio in litt. 2012). Throughout, collection of firewood is degrading habitat (Borghesio et al. 2004). However, the species does seem able to tolerate some human exploitation of its habitat (Turner 1997) which, being relatively semi-arid, is not as severely threatened by the expanding human population as most other Ethiopian forests (Borghesio 1997a). However, the area is wet enough to support coffee, which will likely result in increased settlement (L. Borghesio in litt. 2005). Many plantations of exotic tree species (Eucalyptus spp., Cupressus spp.) have also been created recently (Borghesio et al. 2004, L. Borghesio in litt. 2005). Not only do these seem to have failed in their aim of reducing pressure on native forests, but they have - along with habitat degradation - facilitated a substantial expansion of the range of the forest-preferring T. leucotis into the range of the more woodland-favouring T. ruspolii (Borghesio et al. 2004). Studies seem to indicate that T. ruspolii is not at risk from competition (Borghesio 1997a). However, recent observations of hybrids with T. leucotis have raised fears over the long term genetic integrity of T. ruspolii (Lernould and Seitre 2002, Borghesio et al. 2004, Lernould and Seitre 2004, Borghesio et al. 2009, Borghesio et al. 2012, Dakar et al. 2013). Fieldwork in 2007-2008 found hybrids along the entire overlap zone between the ranges of T. ruspolii and T. leucotis, where none had been seen in 1995 (Borghesio et al. 2009). In addition, the reluctance of turacos to fly across non-wooded habitat may make isolated populations unusually susceptible to local extinction (Lernould and Seitre 2002). Evidence has recently been found of attempts to illegally capture the species, perhaps indicating that this is an increasing threat, and access to areas within its range, although still difficult, has improved in recent years (Borghesio et al. 2004). The capture of adult birds is likely to be for the cagebird trade and appears to be only a minor threat (L. Borghesio in litt. 2007). The species's eggs may be taken for medicinal purposes, although this is also likely to be a very minor threat (L. Borghesio in litt. 2007).
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. The woodlands of Anferara-Wadera and adjacent Bore-Anferara have been designated as National Forest Priority Areas (EWNHS 1996). The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority proposed to include the species's range in its Protected Areas Network in March 2012 (A. Shimelis in litt. 2012).
40 cm. Long-tailed, arboreal bird. Green upperbody with dark back and tail. White, rounded, erectile crest. Bright scarlet wing-patches in flight. Bright red bill and eye-ring. Similar spp. White-cheeked Turaco T. leucotis has green, pointed crest. Hints Fairly common in woodland and riverine forest along road from Kibre Mengist to Negele and in Juniperus-Olea forest north of Arero in southern Ethiopia. T. ruspolii and T. leucotis often occur close together but within different habitat-types, leucotis favouring Podocarpus forests and, more and more often, Eucalyptus and Cupressus plantations that have greatly expanded in the area in recent years. Outside the range of T. ruspolii, T. leucotis favours similar habitat to T. ruspolii (Borghesio 1997a).
Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Westrip, J.
Shimelis, A., Wolstencroft, J., Lernould, J., Syvertsen, P., Borghesio, L.
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Tauraco ruspolii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/08/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 09/08/2020.