Traditional poultry farming in sub-Saharan Africa and more specifically in Togo, contributes to the strengthening of family farming through its contribution to the creation of jobs, incomes and the achievement of food security objectives for rural households1-3. In recent decades, with the rapid urbanization of rural areas, intensive poultry farming is developing. The intensive poultry farming, whose main speculation is eggs and meat production, requires significant technical and financial resources beyond the reach of subsistent farmers4. However, despite its low levels of investment and productivity, traditional poultry farming continues to occupy an important place in the livelihoods of the people especially in rural areas where poultry are kept for multiple purposes such as consumption, religious and social practices, income generation through the sale of eggs and birds5-7.
In Togo, family poultry is widespread especially in rural areas. It is practiced by more than 90% of households8. One of the major species of poultry mainly reared in the northern part of the country is the indigenous guinea fowl (Numida meleagris). It is a family rearing characterized by promiscuity between guinea fowl and animals of different species. The animals feed mainly around the farm. Most farmers do not care for their birds and their houses are built with precarious materials8. Guinea fowl production in Togo encounters many constraints such as health management, feed supply and housing (especially of keets) and causing high mortality of 80-100%3,9,10. Therefore, many studies are being conducted to improve indigenous guinea fowl producting conditions for a better productivity3,11-14. However, in order to appropriately apply all the management and valorization strategies being developed, prior knowledge of the resources available and their performance is required. To our knowledge there are no reports on the phenotypic and genetic characterization of the indigenous guinea fowl in Togo. This study therefore aimed to contribute to a better knowledge of this species in Togo for its better use in the improvement and development programs. Specifically, the morphological and biometric characteristics of indigenous guinea fowl in northern Togo were studied.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study areas: The study was conducted in northern Togo and specifically in two agroecological zones: the Dry Savannah and Atakora zones. Guinea fowl production is predominant in these two agroecological zones in Togo15.
The north of Togo is located between 0° and 1° East longitude and 9° and 11° latitude North.
The dry savannah zone: it is located in the extreme north of the country covering the Savannah region and Keran prefecture. It is a lowland area. Precipitation, mainly between May and October, ranges between 1000 and 1100 mm per year with an average of 82 days of rain. Temperature is between 22 and 35°C.
Atakora: it is an area of mountains covering Kara region minus Keran prefecture. Annual rainfall varies from 1100-1400 mm with an average of 113 days of rain. The temperature ranges between 21 and 34°C.
Sampling and data collection: The study was conducted between March and July , 2018 in fourteen prefectures of the two agroecological zones (Fig. 1). Two villages per prefecture were selected in all prefectures except three prefectures where one and three villages were sampled. The selection criteria were demarcation by minimum distance between villages to obtain the least related animals possible, the presence of’ family farms of sufficient size, the accessibility of the area and the availability of’ breeders. In each village, three farmers each having at the time of the study, at least five adult guinea fowl, were interviewed. Each guinea fowl was subjected to a direct phenotypic description, measurements and photography. Qualitative data were: the colour and type of plumage, the shape of the helmet, the colour of the beak, the colour of eye, the colours of mumps and wattles, the colour of shank and toes. Quantitative measures recorded were: the beak length, the wattles length, the dewlap length, the shank length and diameter, the drumstick length, the body length, the wingspan, the chest circumference and the body weight. The quantitative data were collected using an electronic balance of 1 g precision, a vernier caliper of 0.01 mm precision and a tape measure. Qualitative characteristics were described by visual observation. All descriptions and measures were taken by the same investigator. Thus, 738 guinea fowl were sampled in 81 farms of 27 villages.
The different body measurements were performed according to the following definitions:
Length of the beak: Distance between the tip of the upper mandible and the commissure of the two mandibles.
Length of wattles: Distance between the insertion point of the wattle in the head and the lowest point.
Length of the dewlap: Distance between the insertion chin and its terminal end.
Body length: Distance between the tip of the upper mandible and the tail (without feathers), the body of the bird was gently stretched over its entire length.
Chest circumference: Chest circumference outlet below the wings and at the projecting region of the sternum
Wingspan: length between the ends of the right and the left wings after having gently stretched them at full length.
Drumstick length: Distance between the knee (femoro-tibial joint) and the joint with the tarsus.
Shank length: Length from the articulation with the drumstick to the spur of each shank.
Shank diameter: Measured perpendicular to the anterior-posterior plane and in the middle portion of the shank.
Body weight: Live weight of the guinea fowl.
Statistical analysis: Descriptive statistics were used to describe the colour of the plumage and other morphological features. Z test was used to compare the percentages between agroecological zones and between phenotypes. Mann-Whitney test and Kruskal-Wallis test were used to compare the quantitative variables respectively between
agroecological zones and between phenotypes. Dunn-test (with Bonferroni correction) was used for pairwise comparisons whenever Kruskal-Wallis test showed significant differences. The differences were significant if the probability (p-value) was less than 5%. All statistical analyzes were performed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) Statistic 20 software.
Plumage colours (phenotypes): A great diversity of plumage coloration was observed with a total of 12 colours (Fig. 2). The most frequently five colours observed were: Bonaparte (39.0%), Pearl grey (27.1%), Multicoloured (14.1%), Royal purple (7.2%) and Albino (3.7%) (Table 1). The agroecological zone influenced significantly (p<0.05) the plumage coloration. Bonaparte (50.6%) and Black pied (6.4%) proportions in Atakora were higher (p<0.05) than those of Dry savannah which were respectively 32.5 and 1,1%. On the other hand, Pearl grey (31.8%) and Lavender (3.0%) phenotypes were more encountered (p<0.05) in Dry Savannah than in Atakora (18.7 and 0.4%).
Type of plumage and shape of the helmet: The type of plumage was influenced (p<0.05) by the agroecological zone. Two types of plumages were observed with a predominance of the smooth type (90.5%) (Table 2). The proportion of smooth plumage was higher (p<0,05) in Atakora (95.1%) than in Dry Savannah (87.9%) and inversely for the silky plumage with 12.1% in Dry Savannah and 4.9% in Atakora.
The shape of the helmet was neither associated with the agroecological zone nor with the phenotype (p>0.05). Two forms of helmet (curved and erect) were identified with a predominance of the curved form (73.2%) (Table 2).
Coloration of the beak: Only the agroecological zone had a significant effect (p<0.05) on the colour of the beak. Two colorations were identified: the brown colour and the red colour (Table 3). Brown colour was higher (p<0.05) in Atakora (81.3%) than Dry Savannah (47.1%) while red colour was more represented in Dry Savannah (52.9%) than Atakora (18,7%).
Coloration of eyes: Six colorations of the eye were observed with a dominance of brown colour (57.0%) (Table 4). The agroecological zone and the phenotype significantly influenced (p<0.05) the coloration of eyes. The grey-white colour was majority in Atakora (7.1%) while it only represented 0.4% in the Dry Savannah. Guinea fowl with a white coloration of the plumage (Albino and Chamois) had mostly white eyes. The proportion of this white coloration of the eyes was on the one hand higher in the Albino (85.2%) than in the Chamois (18.2%) and on the other hand this coloration was less present in Pearl grey (1.0%) than in Albinos and Chamois guinea fowl.