Belgian ornithologist discovers unknown species of owl on Principe island
Friday, 22 July 2016
At the beginning of July, the Belgian ornithologist, Philippe Verbelen, discovered an unknown species of owl on the island of Principe (in the country at São Tomé and Principe, West Africa). “This owl is exceedingly different to species known up to now,” he indicated. “The rumours about the presence of a Western Screech Owl on the island of Principe have been circulating loudly for more than a century. Several expeditions have been organised in attempts to find it,” explains the scientist.
The work of the Belgian ornithologist started in 2009, when reading an article by the Portuguese biologist Martim Melo. He had detected an unknown call in the tropical forest of this island, resembling that of an owl.
Príncipe is an island off the west coast of Africa. It has an area of 136 square kilometres and a population of approximately 5,000. The island is a heavily eroded volcano speculated to be over three million years old, surrounded by smaller islands.
At the beginning of July, Verbelen decided to undergo an expedition to Principe, accompanied by the Brazilian biologist Felipe Spina. With the help of a local guide, they found a place where they were able to hear the famous call.
After a long wait, a bird suddenly sat on a tree ten metres from the researchers. Verbelen flew to and was successful in taking photos.
He then analysed the negatives with the biologist Melo and the Swedish researcher Georges Sansgster, who also works with these birds. These researchers were convinced that they had discovered a new owl.
Currently, more in-depth studies are necessary to understand the spread and distribution, and the abundance, of the owls in this forest to protect them.
This new information was released yesterday (Thursday) during the International Biology Conference on the Biology of the Gulf of Guinea, taking place in the Azores, which are located just off and belong to Portugal.