São Tomé and Príncipe Biodiversity Expedition 2001/2002 Summary Report

Tony King




From December 2001 to March 2002, I participated in an exploratory expedition to the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea, off western Africa. The expedition was organised by Martin Dallimer, and we were accompanied by Rachel Atkinson for the first few weeks. The three of us had met at the University of Edinburgh, whilst I was doing a Masters in Natural Resource Management, and Martin and Rachel were PhD students. We spent most of our time on São Tomé, focussing on researching its endemic birds, but Martin and I couldn’t resist a short 2-week expedition to the smaller island of Príncipe.


São Tomé

In the last week of our expedition we obtained the first ever photographic evidence for the continued existence of the Critically Endangered São Tomé Grosbeak Neospiza concolor (Dallimer, King & Leitão 2003; Anon 2004). This was the first time our renowned local guide Pedro Leitão had ever seen the bird, and the first conclusive proof of its existence since the collection of the type specimen a century or so earlier. We ran out of time in our efforts to mist-net it though. Early in our expedition we made a notable high-altitude sighting of the Vulnerable São Tomé Short-tail Amaurocichla bocagei (Dallimer, King & Atkinson 2003), which had previously been considered to be restricted to low altitude parts of the island. Most of our time on São Tomé was devoted to estimating densities of its endemic birds by point-count distance sampling (Dallimer, King & Atkinson 2009), whilst simultaneously undertaking a mist-net survey to collect data on their daily activity, moult and morphometrics (King & Dallimer 2003a). Highlights of the mist-net survey included netting rare endemics such as São Tomé Short-tail Amaurocichla bocagei, Giant Sunbird Dreptes thomensis and Newton's Fiscal Lanius newtoni.



We undertook similar research during our shorter trip to Príncipe, concentrating on distance sampling of endemic forest birds (Dallimer & King 2007), whilst mist-netting for birds was a lot less successful than on São Tomé (King & Dallimer 2003a). We made some low altitude observations of the extremely rare Príncipe thrush Turdus (olivaceofuscus) xanthorhynchus (King & Dallimer 2008), which had previously mostly been recorded at higher altitudes. At the end of the expedition we camped near a roost of straw-coloured fruit bats Eidolon helvum, and estimated the size of the roost as they left to forage at dusk (Dallimer, King, Cope & Borge Jiana 2006). At the same site we mist-netted several Rousettus egyptiacus princeps, an endemic subspecies of the Rousette fruit bat (King & Dallimer 2003b). We captured seven adult males and four juveniles, but only one adult female, leading to interesting questions about roost composition (King & Dallimer 2003b).



I thank Martin Dallimer, Rachel Atkinson, Pedro Leitão, Manuel Borge Jiana, the staff of ECOFAC São Tomé and Príncipe, Angus Gascoigne and Peter Jones. The work was funded by the Davis Expedition Fund, the British Ecological Society and the John Ray Trust. Additional support was provided by Garmin (Europe) Ltd and Berghaus Ltd.



Anon, 2004, The Sao Tome grosbeak - alive but critically endangered. Oryx 38 (1): 7.

Dallimer, M. & King, T. 2007. Habitat preferences of the forest birds on the island of Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea. African Journal of Ecology 46 (3): 258-266.

Dallimer, M., King, T. & Atkinson, R. 2003. A high altitude sighting of the São Tomé Short-tail Amaurocichla bocagei. Malimbus 25 (2): 101-103.

Dallimer, M., King, T. & Atkinson, R.J. 2009. Pervasive threats within a protected area: conserving the endemic birds of São Tomé, West Africa. Animal Conservation 12 (3): 209-219.

Dallimer M., King T. & Leitão P. 2003. New records of the São Tomé Grosbeak Neospiza concolor. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 10 (1): 23-25.

Dallimer, M., King, T., Cope, D. & Borge Jiana, M. 2006. Estimation of population density of Eidolon helvum on the island of Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea. Mammalia 70 (1-2): 48-51.

King, T. & Dallimer, M. 2003a. Daily activity, moult and morphometrics of the birds of São Tomé and Príncipe. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 10 (2): 84-93.

King, T. & Dallimer, M. 2003b. A long night of male fruit bats on the island of Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea. Bat Research News 44 (1): 31-32.

King, T. & Dallimer, M. 2008. Low altitude sightings of the Gulf of Guinea Thrush Turdus olivaceofuscus xanthorhynchus on Príncipe Island. Malimbus 30 (1): 77-81.