Species: Maathai’s longleg (Notogomphus maathaiae)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: First described in 2005, Maathai’s longleg is a clubtail dragonfly belonging to the genus Notogomphus.
Also known as Maathai’s clubtail, this dragonfly is commonly referred to as ‘longleg’ on account of its extended hind thighs. Maathai’s longleg is a fairly dark-coloured dragonfly, distinguishable thanks to the bright green markings on the sides of its thorax.
Dragonflies start their life as aquatic nymphs. They pass through a series of developmental stages and undergo several moults as they grow before metamorphosis occurs. There is no evidence to suggest that this species is seasonal. Two female Maathai’s longlegs have been observed laying eggs in water.
Maathai’s longleg has been recorded from the forests of Mount Elgon National Park, Katamayu Forest and Marioshoni Forest, Kenya. It is found from around 2,200 to 2,600 metres above sea level, in and around clear montane forested streams.
The forest habitat on which this species appears to rely has been widely destroyed in recent decades, and Maathai’s longleg is therefore presumed to have suffered significant declines. As deforestation continues, this rare dragonfly is expected to be up-listed to Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List before too long.
In the densely populated Kenyan highlands, Maathai’s longleg serves as an indicator of habitat quality and is therefore being promoted as a flagship species to raise awareness of the need to protect the natural forest and watershed. Protection of its riverside forests will not only help this endangered dragonfly, but also the farmers of the foothills, by guaranteeing soil stability and a steady flow of water. To this end, dragonflies such as this species are being dubbed the ‘guardians of the watershed’ in East Africa, helping to raise their profile in the field of conservation.
Find out more about Maathai’s longleg at Enchanted Landscapes.
Phoebe Shaw Stewart, ARKive Text Author