Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 170515478
Mitigating Trade on Avian Derivatives in South-East Nigeria
Introduction: Many cultures in Africa, require animal parts for a variety of traditional and religious practices. This has resulted in the persecution of more than 354 bird species across the continent. Threatened species that are particularly targeted by traditional practices include globally threatened species such as the hooded vultures, martial eagles, and grey parrots. These species are likely to experienced more significant declines if their illegal hunting persists. Recent studies (Atuo et al. 2015; Buij et al. 2015; Ogada and Buij 2011)study indicated that bones, heads, feet, and feathers of vultures and other raptors are highly sought after for their perceived powers in communication with or casting out evil spirits, treatment of afflictions, and in traditional ceremonies. In Africa, Nigeria ranked above other countries in terms of the intensity at which wildlife species are persecuted for their body parts (Williams et al. 2014; Nikolaus 2001) . This trend where selected species are constantly hunted and sold in traditional practice market was recently identified as a major driver of population decline of the Hooded Vulture and many other raptor species (Buij et al. 2015) in Africa. The Hooded Vulture, once considered most abundant and wide spreed of the vulture species in sub-saharan Africa is experiencing an extremely rapid population decline due to illegal trade for traditional medicine among other reasons (BirdLife International 2016). The species was recently uplisted as “Critically Endengered” under the IUCN/BirdLife threat category http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3372.
Our project will fulfill four major objectives:
- Identify the socio-cultural and economic drivers of trade on wildlife derivatives focusing on trade in vultures and other raptors body parts.
- Identify determinants of compliance with wildlife protection laws among indigenous people living in proximity to protected areas in the southeastern Nigeria. This will be important in developing conservation action plans that will best protect species.
- Estimate prevalence rates of avian body parts trade and identify vulnerable species.
- Conduct community based conservation awareness campaigns aimed at changing local attitude towards vulture persecution in communities living in proximity to major protected areas in the Cross River Region of South-east Nigeria. As part of our campaign activities, we also aim to initiate community based conservation monitoring groups to report and deter illegal vulture harvesting in their localities.
Questionnaire surveys: Surveys will be carried out in 28 communities living in proximity to the three main protected areas in Cross River State (i.e. Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Cross River National Park). Aprioriselection of surveyed villages will be done by randomly drawing the required number of villages without replacement from a pool of all the villages surrounding each protected area. In each of the selected community, we will obtain permission to carry out our study from the community chief. Within each community, we will interview not less than 15 people across different age classes. In order to identify persecuted species, we will used the field guide to the birds of Western Africa (Borrow and Demey 2008). Using the field guide, we will show birds’ pictures to each respondent so as to confirm the species involved and translate birds names from local dialects to English. Given the sensitive nature of our study, we will assure all interviewees of the confidentiality and anonymity of their information as a way to positively influence their willingness to share information on avian persecution within their localities (Nuno and St John 2014).
Conservation awareness: Our awareness campaigns will be carried out at three levels
- Community meetings: All sampled communities will be visited and conservation meetings will be held with local chiefs and community leaders. During such meetings, community leaders will be exposed to the important ecological role that birds play and the danger of losing species. We will specifically discuss the potential consequences of trade in avian body parts on the declining population of avian species. Meeting days will be selected in consultation with village chiefs. Meetings will be held mainly in the evenings. Given that our previous studied identified high prevalence of illegal wildlife body parts trade among hunters and farmers, we will hold special meetings with hunters’ and farmers’ groups in each survey community. During meetings, we will lobby these groups to develop a group monitoring scheme that will check and report illegal harvest of endangered bird species.
- Conservation Posters: Not less than 2000 posters bearing conservation messages will be produced and distributed during community meetings, and questionnaire surveys. Some bills will be strategically poster in public places where they can be accessed by a wider audience in these communities.
- Television talk shows: our television awareness campaign will target a wider audience of over 1000, 000 people within coverage of the Cross River Broadcasting Cooperation (CRBC). We will build on already established links with the CRBC to complete at least two talk shows with focus on the dangers of illegal trade on wildlife body parts and the attendant consequences for biodiversity in the region.
Location and Duration.
Project Site: Our study will focus on 28 communities living in proximity to protected areas in the Cross River region of southeastern Nigeria. The primary study areas will include communities around the Cross River National Park (Okwangwo and Oban divisions), Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary. The Cross River National Park is the largest protected area in the southeastern region of Nigeria and covers an area of ~4000 km2. Its two divisions are separated by ~60 km of disturbed forests, farm lands, villages, and towns. The Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mbe Mountains covers an area of ~100 km2 and ~85 km2 respectively. Both protected areas lie to the west of the Okwangwo Division of the Cross River National Park and are considered important sites for several endemic and threatened species including the Gray-necked Picathartes (Picathartes oreas), the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), and the Nigeria–Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti). The Cross River forest area lies to the west of the Central Africa equatorial tropical rain-forest zone (5° 14′–6° 22′N and 8° 37′–9° 20′E). The area is possibly the largest remaining relatively undisturbed block of contiguous forest in West Africa (Oates et al. 2004). Given the romote and rouggered terriain, we anticipate that some of the villages may be inaccessable during the raining season. These villages will be surveyed during the dry season (Novermber – March).
Our previous study in the region identified the Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) as the most prevalent species in the avian body part market accounting for 17% of all traded species in our study area (Atuo et al. 2015). Other top persecuted species included the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and the Gray Parrot (Psittacus erithacus). Both species are classified as "vulnerable" under the IUCN/BirdLife threat category. Buij et al. (2015) identified increased demand for vultures' body parts in markets for traditional practices as a key factor responsible for vulture decline in West Africa. Our project will therefore contribute immensely to the global priority of combating massive decline in Hooded Vulture population. Secondly, while it is desirable to sustain traditional and cultural practices, it is important to balance these practices with biodiversity conservation as population declines threaten both species’ survival and the continued cultural practice. Conservation actions that mitigate the loss of species to body parts trade will greatly benefit conservation of threatened species while ensuring continuity of cultural practices that rely on them.
Project 170515478 location - Nigeria, Africa