Conservation Foundation launches 2-year vulture conservation project

Ugonma Cokey, Lagos


The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in partnership with Birdlife International Africa has launched a United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The NCF has also funded a 2-year project tagged “Combating the West African Illegal Trade in Threatened Vultures and their parts for Belief-based use.”

It hosted a Workshop with stakeholders at its Conservation Center on a projects which included unveiling Celebrity Vulture Ambassador and presented efforts of NCF, Birdlife International and other partners in combating Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT).

This is a follow-up to an earlier two-day internal planning with the NCF and BirdLife Project Implementation Team to review the work plan and stakeholders involvement in the delivery of the project.

Actively harvested
The Director-General of NCF, Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano, in his address said that Vultures were being actively harvested in Nigeria and across Africa for various mystical reasons and that efforts were on by NCF to tackle the menace.

Aminu-Kano said that the Foundation was carrying out awareness campaign among trado-medics on herbal alternatives to vulture parts and to seek collaboration with security agencies on law enforcement.

Importance of Vultures
According to him, Vultures are very important, as they are our unpaid sanitary inspectors, some people call them garbage collectors, but they are beyond just collectors, they actually clean up the environment and prevent us from having deadly diseases.

They prevent the proliferation of pests because they eat up carcasses. If vultures go into extinction then we are in trouble, it means that there will be diseases, there will be deaths, there will be revenue loss to the country and also we will deprive future generations of knowing that vultures ever existed.

Vulture Trade Hotspots
NCFs Technical Director, Dr Joseph Onoja while presenting the project identified hotspots for the trade in vultures in Nigeria to include Osun, Oyo, Ogun in the South-West and Kano, Sokoto and Katsina in the North.

Onoja explained that vultures were used for ritual rites to cure madness and evil omen, while their eggs were used for money making rituals and some people consume the meat as food.

Vulture Conservation Manager for Birdlife, International Africa, Dr. Beckie Garbett, in her project introduction said that efforts were on targeting Nigeria to reduce IWT and trade in vultures and its parts by 20 per cent by year 2021.

IWT as global problem
Mr. Peter Thomas, the Deputy Head of Mission, British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, while delivering his keynote address said that the British Government has been at the forefront of eradicating IWT which has become the highest criminal revenue spinner after drugs.

He said the IWT continues to be a global problem, involving serious organised crime networks and work worth up to 17 billion pounds per year.

This is more than 75 countries Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If that figure alone is not shocking in itself, if estimated for illegal logging and fishing are included, the figure goes up to 114 billion pounds. And that is more than 130 countries GDP. Thomas said.

The Director of Forestry, Federal Ministry of Environment, Mr. Adejo Andrew, who was represented by Mr. John Timothy Daniel, assured the meeting of the collaboration of the Federal Department of Forestry with the NCF on bird conservation related issues.

The Ministry is the focal point for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) and the African Eurasian Migratory Water Birds Agreement (AEWA) in Nigeria,
Adejo described the current initiative to conserve the endangered Vultures, with the kind financial assistance by the USFWS fund as a welcome development that will be a tool to conserve the forest ecosystems that provide habitat for the bird and other wild animal species.

Vulture ambassadors
Celebrity Vulture Ambassadors were unveiled. Among them were Mr. Peter Uduak, popularly known as Tito Da Fire, a Nigerian musician, Voice Over artiste and On-Air-Personality; Mr. Seyi Asurf, a movie producer based in Lagos; Mr. Yomi Fash-Lanso, a movie producer/director/actor; Mr. Tope Alake, a movie producer based in Ibadan and Mallam Shehu Kano, an actor based in Kano.

Thereafter, participants drawn from Nigeria Customs, Nigeria Police Force, Traditional Medicine Practitioners (native doctors), National Association of Hunters, Federal Ministry of Environments, State Ministry of Justice, NESREA, Academics and media were shared into four groups to contribute and compliment the project.

The groups were: Strengthening law enforcement; Alternatives to Vultures for Belief-based use; Wildlife trading and Public Awareness with leading questions on What is the problem? Why is the Problem? What can be done? and What is your role?

The outcome of these group discussions will help to realign the project design and activities in order to achieve the project objective.

Lateefah Ibrahim