Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925834
Vultures fulfill an extremely important ecological role. They keep natural and man-made habitats free of carcasses, waste and even human excrement, restrict the spread of diseases (such as anthrax and botulism) and pests such as rats, are of cultural value to African communities, and they have important eco-tourism (bird-watching) value. There are 11 vulture species in Africa (see table below), of which eight are endemic or near-endemic and thus their conservation rests in the hands of Africa. However, vultures in Africa are in trouble and are threatened by several anthropogenic factors. Vultures are the most threatened functional group within the avian community. Of the eight endemic/near-endemics six are globally threatened or Near Threatened. They face severe levels of threat especially outside the large conservation areas. Recent reports indicate the problems facing vultures in Africa and the ongoing ones in Asia. Across the Indian subcontinent, populations of three formerly very common species of vulture have declined by more than 97% as a result of consuming cattle carcasses contaminated with the veterinary drug diclofenac. There have been mass vulture deaths in East Africa associated with misuse of chemicals, huge population declines in West Africa due to habitat loss, and the disappearance of vultures from large areas of their formers ranges in South Africa because of the continued use of vulture parts in traditional medicine and sorcery. Other threats include power line collisions and electrocutions, disturbance at breeding sites, drowning in farm reservoirs, direct persecution and declining food availability. Vulture numbers have declined precipitously in West Africa over the past 30 years (see- http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2007/01/sahel_declines.html). In East Africa, vultures have shown large declines in north-central Kenya and in the Masai Mara where declines of 77% and >50% respectively, have been recorded (D. Oganda in litt). The proposed work intends to contribute towards achievement of three conservation actions that are considered vital for the safeguarding the survival of vultures in Africa:
- Setting population baselines and monitoring: Filling gaps in baseline surveys for vultures in some priority African countries (Malawi and Zimbabwe) – these are important for setting baselines for future monitoring of vulture populations to determine trends and be alerted about declining populations. Similar road counts were undertaken in three West African countries (1973; 2005), and more were undertaken in Jan/Feb 2010 in four Eastern African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia) with separate funding from the Rufford Maurice Lang Foundation. In Southern Africa, surveys are often undertaken by volunteers in Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.
- Education and awareness: Carrying out focused education and awareness programmes, targeted at various interest groups, to reduce persecution, poisoning and hunting for cultural reasons. In fact, given their important ecological role and the fact that they keep themselves clean (they are meticulous in washing themselves, finding water to bathe in daily when they can), vultures need an image make-over and serious awareness-raising. The BirdLife Partner NGOs and vulture enthusiasts in some countries will be supported to actively celebrate the International Vulture Awareness Day of 2011 (see http://www.ivad09.org/) and use it as an opportunity for raising the profile of vultures
Project 0925834 location - Kenya, Africa