Tuesday 11th July, 2018 was an awesome day in the field of conservation. On this day, a team from NatureUganda carried out an expedition to confirm sightings by various visitors of the Fox’s Weaver (Ploceus spekeoides) ‘the only Uganda’s endemic bird’ at Lake Opeta.
The Fox’s Weavers were found in Omugetum Village, Magoro sub-county in Katakwi district. These birds were seen to occupy the seasonally flooded wooded wetland between Lake Bisina and Lake Opeta and their oval nests were built on the whistling thorn Acacia trees nearer to water pools in this seasonally flooded wooded wetland.
Although no sightings were made during the 2015 expedition of the species, the survey carried out in January 2010 and July 2018 proved successful where seven individuals were recorded in both expeditions.
The survey team was led by Mr. Achilles Byaruhanga (Executive Director NatureUganda) and Dr. Dianah Nalwanga (Director Science and Conservation, NatureUganda) and 5 other members of staff. After walking a couple of kilometers through the flooded Magoro-Angisa road, in the Omegetum seasonal wetland, the team was able to identify Seven individuals of the Fox’s Weaver, two of which were female and the rest being male. 32 nests were also recorded on whistling thorn Acacia trees
The team also spotted one Karamoja Apalis (Apalis karamojae), (Vulnerable according to the IUCN assessment of 2017) in the same area. The team also observed that the Bronze Manikins were flying in and out of the abandoned nests of the Fox’s Weavers, probably being used for breeding.
The small population of P. spekeoides was found nesting in trees hanging over flooded pools of water along the road. The seasonally flooded swamp adjourns Lake Opeta on one side and grazing lands and agricultural fields on the other. This restricted habitat of the Fox’s Weaver is also used by the Teso community for animal grazing, fishing and bird hunting was also reported. These activities present challenges and threats to the bird through degradation of the habitats and direct persecution of the species through hunting. The species is listed as Endangered on the local Red List for Uganda and Near-threated on the global RedList.
Given the above threats identified for example hunting, there is need for increased conservation efforts to save the only endemic bird of the country. The Fox’s weaver could be the cornerstone species to save the seasonally flooded grasslands and wetlands of the northeastern region of Uganda especially the Ramsar sites of Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina.