Vulture population in crisis amid environmental benefits
The illegal trade in the vultures, especially for ritual rites, domestic food, protein supplement and the use of its egg for moneymaking rituals as well as cure of madness, has caused a nearly 90 per cent decline in the scavengers’ populations.
A life vulture is worth about $85 to $140 while a dead vulture is worth from $40 to $60 depending on location and availability. The demand for African vulture and its part is very high which is largely driven by its belief- base use.
Investigations have shown that vultures are sourced from countries including Nigeria, Niger Republic, Burkina Faso and Chad while licensed and unlicensed veterinary drugs are use by farmers for different purposes, which affect vulture species.
To avert the complete extinction crisis, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) through its save vulture project begun a two year campaign in 2018 with funding from international sponsor to combat illegal trade in Vultures and other species of wildlife as well as enlist Vulture ambassadors to propagate the message of conserving the endangered species.
The main goal of the project is to reduce by 20 per cent the illegal trade of vulture parts from highly threatened African vultures by 2021 in wildlife markets in Nigeria through strengthened law enforcement and identification of alternative tradable plant products.
Speaking to newsmen last week in Lagos, the Programme Lead, Mr. Solomon Adefolu explained that markets surveys conducted in 13 wildlife markets across the targeted three Nigerian South West States that include, Ondo, Ogun, and Osun states, revealed that vultures are decimated based on belief system for different use especially in traditional way.
Adefolu said that through the campaign, the foundation has gotten commitments from traditional healers in the Northern and Southern part of Nigeria on the need to develop plant based alternative to use of vulture as a means to reduce the crisis.
He said although the foundation was unable to close down identified open market where vultures are traded since it wasn’t saddled with the responsibility, however, he observed that there has been reduction in vulture trade but more still needs to be done. Adefolu said the foundation has also trained students in about 100 schools on the need to preach vulture conservation through the school clubs.
“We are engaging government through current existing legal framework which we mentioned as the Endangered Specie Act; we are engaging law enforcement agencies who are supposed to be enforcing this law. We are also engaging brand ambassadors who can carry on the message to different locations wherever they go to; as well as school children so that they can also change the cultural belief among their peers and adults they find around. NCF engaged Trado Healers and Hunters Association on seeking alternatives to vulture parts which looks promising as there are discussions with the end users to use this more available alternatives”.
“Currently, we have been able to deliver about 100 schools conservation clubs both in the North and in the South of Nigeria. The project is still going on, we are still going to unfold the other things in the coming years, including new faces and new stakeholders. And we are targeting using the vulture specie as target specie to combat the entire illegal wildlife crime in Nigeria,” he said.
The technical director, NCF, Dr Joseph Onoja expressed concerns on serious decline of about 95 per cent of the hooded specie of vulture population in Nigeria lamenting that as the decline increases, more diseases are circulated in the environment.
“Vulture helps to clean up diseases in the environment as sanitisers especially in abattoir. They can detect carcasses even before it decomposes and vultures don’t pass diseases to human. A vulture does an ecosystem work worth about $11,200. We need to create more awareness to stop the threat to Vulture species”.
Onoja said there is need to engage people at local level to ensure that vulture and other endanger wild life doesn’t get to the market and strengthen enforcement for protected areas. He stressed that existing laws also need to bit harder on culprits cut in illegal trade of wild life.
The NCF vulture brand ambassador, Mr Uduak Peters also known as Tito Da Fire), explained that effortsmade has been able to send the message across to his 18,000 tweeter followers and 36,000 Instagram followers as well as opening up conversation on different platforms on the need to conserve Vulture in Nigeria.