Since the 1940s, horticulturalists (the Lese) have been settled along the sides of the roads that traverse a large part of the forest in eastern Zaire. These people have maintained their lifestyle of shifting cultivation and trade with the Mbuti pygmies. This has resulted in corridors of heavily disturbed and regenerating forest. The results of a study of the understorey bird community at three sites in the Okapi Reserve in the Ituri forest in Zaire are reported here. Two primary forest sites (one monodominant Gilbertiodendron forest) in the Reserve were compared with an area of forest disturbed by shifting cultivation. The two primary forest sites were more similar in species composition than they were to secondary forest created by shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation had a more severe impact on the bird community than selective logging does in forests in Uganda and Malaysia. There was a shift following disturbance from a bird community dominated by insectivores to one with more frugivore-insectivores and nectarivores. Ground thrushes Zoothera spp. and flycatchers were abundant in the monodominant Gilbertiodendron forest and appear to suffer from the change in forest structure following disturbance. The Okapi Reserve currently conserves some important bird species and at least 333 birds have been reported to occur there.
Plumptre, A.J. Shifting cultivation along the Trans-African Highway and its impact on the understorey bird community in the Ituri Forest, Zaire. Bird Conservation International (1997) 7 (04) 317-329. [DOI: 10.1017/S0959270900001659]