Rainfall-related population growth and adult sex ratio change in the Critically Endangered Raso lark (Alauda razae)



Michael de L. Brooke, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ, UK. Tel: +44 01223 336610; Fax: +44 01223 336676

Email: m.brooke@zoo.cam.ac.uk


Active conservation has often been successful in reversing or arresting population declines of endangered species. However, examples of Critically Endangered species recovering in the absence of human intervention are extremely rare. We censused the Raso lark, a single-island endemic of the Cape Verdes archipelago, annually from 2001 to 2010. Between 2004 and 2010, the world population grew from 65 to 470 individuals. This remarkable increase occurred without conservation intervention, but correlated strongly and positively with rainfall. Because of this population increase, the mean age of birds reduced and the population shifted from male skew, a consequence of higher male survival, towards one where the sexes were more equally represented. This study illustrates the dramatic effect that natural changes in climatic conditions may have on the recovery of endangered species. However, the current favourable situation may not persist, and we suggest a translocation to another Cape Verdean island be urgently considered. We conclude that temporal trends in the population dynamics of endangered populations need to be considered when planning and implementing species recovery plans.