Six of Africa’s 11 vulture species – the continent’s largest and most recognizable birds of prey – are now at a higher risk of extinction, according to the latest assessment of birds carried out by BirdLife International for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.
The main causes of the drop in African vulture populations are thought to be indiscriminate poisonings, where the birds are drawn to poisoned baits, use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine, and deliberate targeting by poachers, as the presence of vultures can alert authorities to illegally killed big game carcasses.
“Vultures and other birds play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems,” said Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Their decline can have serious knock-on effects on other species and the many benefits provided by nature. While it is encouraging to see some positive outcomes of conservation action, this update is an important wake-up call, showing that urgent efforts need to be taken to protect these species.”
As such, BirdLife Partner NGOs across Africa join forces and commit to playing a leading role in efforts to save the continent’s vultures. This is the conclusion of a workshop on African vultures held at the BirdLife Council for Africa Partnership Meeting in Senchi, Ghana, on 13 October 2015. The energy and warm air in that meeting room gave a real uplift towards getting vulture populations soaring once again in Africa.
Other threats include collisions with powerlines and wind energy infrastructure, habitat loss, declines in food availability and disturbance at breeding sites.
Most Partners committed to changing people’s perceptions about vultures. We have new materials and momentum with which to educate, advocate and raise awareness of their value and the consequences of their disappearance. Other commitments included focus on regulating the use of agrochemicals in East and Southern Africa, and focus on tackling traditional practices and the market for it in both South Africa and West Africa. We remind you that because of the illegal trade in endangered vulture parts to feed the black magic market in Nigeria and Niger, was killed Paschalis – the Egyptian vulture tagged with satellite transmitter under the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron”.
Beyond this, the health, sanitation, tourism, agriculture and other sectors all experience the consequences of the loss of ‘nature’s clean-up crew’ (for example the decline in vultures had an estimated annual cost of $1.5 billion to human health in India), and will all gain from solutions to the crisis. This brings in Governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies (including regional trade blocs), scientific bodies and many others. Religious leaders, too, have a key role to play in spreading the concern for vultures, and showing that trade in and use of vulture body parts for cultural and divination practices needs to stop.
BirdLife launches a campaign to save Africa's vultures.