Status and habitat description of the globally threatened Udzungwa Forest Partridge Xenoperdix udzungwensis thirty years after discovery

The Udzungwa Forest Partridge Xenoperdix udzungwensis was discovered in 1991 in the geologically old and eco-climatically stable Udzungwa Mountains (hereafter the Udzungwas) in Tanzania - a global biodiversity hotspot in the Eastern Arc Mountains of East Africa. The partridge is categorised as globally 'Endangered' and this study aims at assessing its population status and habitat requirements in the two separate montane forests where it was discovered c.30 years ago and for the first time using systematic playback technique. We estimate the partridge population at c.2,800 individuals (1,680-3,860) confined to less than 150 km(2) and now confined to a single forest and with a clearly declining distribution within the last few decades since its discovery. The species is confined to evergreen closed (semi-closed) canopy forest habitat with leaf litter and sedges on the forest floor for feeding and cover. The partridge has become an emblem for the high concentration of endemic species of the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. At the same time there is a risk that this species could go extinct without notice if the Tanzanian authorities do not tackle two envisaged main drivers, namely fragmentation of the evergreen forest area over the last few centuries and current illegal hunting. Hence it seems crucial to allow natural expansion of its forest habitat in the Udzungwas and to eliminate hunting in the other forest within its recently known distribution where the population has presumably been extirpated. The partridge is remarkable as its closest relatives are in South-east Asia and it is used as a flagship species for the Udzungwas, which has one of the highest concentrations of endemic species on earth.