Biotopes of Zambia | Neolebias lozii, a critically endangered fish from the Barotse floodplains

Chris Englezou Biotope, Biotopes of Africa, Uncategorised Leave a Comment

Neolebias lozii, also known as the Banded Neolebias is a species of critically endangered Characin in the Distichodontidae family.

The two sites where the species has been found are less than 2 km apart and the streams meet <5 km downstream, and the area of occurrence consists of only a few km of streams 1 to 2 m wide in the dry season. In terms of the alien invasive threat, the streams are classified as a single location, but would be classed as two separate locations in the event of an agricultural chemical pollution event or road tanker spill. The streams have been canalised, reducing habitat availability in the dry season, and increasing human population is likely to lead to increased water usage and land degradation (e.g., deforestation), therefore a continuing decline may be inferred. The number of mature individuals cannot be estimated as the dense habitat and difficult marshy terrain makes quantitative sampling impossible, but the short stretch of occupied stream and low numbers found in suitable habitat suggests it has a low population. In conclusion, the restricted range, single location, and continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO) and habitat quality lead to an assessment that the species is Critically Endangered. (IUCN Redlist)

Neolebias lozii from the Upper Zambezi River region | R.B. Tate ©

Neolebias lozii inhabits small streams associated with seasonally flooded plains (dambos) bordered by open woodland and occurs in and under dense floating mats of vegetation adjacent to the stream margin and in dense emergent vegetation; it feeds mostly on tiny aquatic invertebrates. (IUCN Redlist)

Neolebias lozii is named in honour of the Lozi people of the Barotse Floodplains where it is found. The Lozi people, or Barotse, are a language group of more than 46 different ethnic groups primarily of western Zambia, inhabiting the region of Barotseland. Lozi is also a nationality of the people of Barotseland. It is not a tribe. The Lozi people number approximately 3,575,000. Lozi are also found in Zambia, Namibia (Caprivi Strip), Angola, Botswana, Mozambique (50,000), and Zimbabwe (8,000). The Lozi are also known as the Malozi, Kololo, Makololo, Barotose, Rotse, Rozi, Rutse, or Tozvi. The Lozi speak Silozi, a central Bantu language. (Appiah, et al (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa. 

Lozi culture is strongly influenced by the flood cycle of the Zambezi river, with annual migrations taking place from the flood plain to higher ground at the start of the wet season. The most important of these festivals is the Kuomboka, in which the Litunga moves from Lealui in the flood plain to Limulunga on higher ground. The Kuomboka usually takes place in February or March. These annual floods displace hundreds of people every year.

A Dambo biotope in the upper Zambezi River | R.B. Tate ©

Researcher Russell Brian Tate remarks “while on a trip into the Barotse Floodplains, we were very fortunate to come across Neolebias lozii in very dense submerged vegetation of a Dambo watercourse. The fish resembles the Dundocharax bidentatus that we saw near Suarimo, Angola and is classified as Critically Endangered. I do think more sampling is required as well. They were in-between the dense grass which was a challenge to sample. This fish was literally the last fish we sampled, despite specifically targeting them.

Appiah, Kwame Anthony; Gates, Henry Louis, eds. (2010). Encyclopedia of Africa2. Oxford New York: Oxford University Press. p. 87-88. ISBN9780195337709.

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