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12 Oct 2017

One big plan to save African-Eurasian vultures by 2029

International commitment is needed now from over 120 countries to ensure the recovery of 15 vulture species

We need to talk about vultures: if effective action is not taken now, many species will go extinct in our lifetimes. Griffon Vulture © Kdsphotos / Pixabay
We need to talk about vultures: if effective action is not taken now, many species will go extinct in our lifetimes. Griffon Vulture © Kdsphotos / Pixabay
By Shaun Hurrell

African-Eurasian Vultures are the most threatened group of terrestrial migratory birds on the planet. Many have extensive soaring migrations (and a Rüppell’s Vulture Gyps rueppelli was recorded as the world’s highest-flying bird when it collided with an airliner), and their massive ranges mean that their safety can only be guaranteed if many countries come together and agree on a plan for their protection. This is where BirdLife International’s work comes in, supported by Partners around the world, with the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) providing a key platform.

It’s a huge problem and a huge area, so we have made an appropriate plan: namely, the Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP), developed by BirdLife, the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Vulture Specialist Group and Vulture Conservation Foundation, under the guidance of the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU), with input from numerous individual experts on vultures and their conservation.

Rüppell's Vulture (Critically Endangered) is one of 15 vulture species to benefit from this new plan. © Ian Dyball

“We as conservation organisations recognise the importance of vultures and are doing all we can to save them, but this colossal task needs action on an unprecedented scale through the support of governments as well as the private sector and many others”, says Roger Safford, Senior Programme Manager, Preventing Extinctions, BirdLife International. The comprehensive action plan sets out actions, and links to practical guidance, for governments of the 128 countries in Africa and Eurasia that have vultures (Vulture Range States), and other stakeholders, on preventing poisoning, avoiding electrocution and collisions with energy infrastructure, tackling persecution and illegal trade, restoring habitat, and ensuring natural food supplies.

The plan has the ultimate deadline: 2029 must be a year of celebration of vulture recovery

“The Vulture MsAP aims for the recovery of 15 Old World vulture species to favourable population levels by 2029”, says Safford. This plan literally has the ultimate deadline: 2029 must be a year of celebration of vulture recovery, not grieving of the imminent extinction of many species. The consequences if not are unbearable. 

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BirdLife thus urges the 126 Parties of CMS to adopt the Vulture MsAP, and to add 10 species of African and Asian Vultures to CMS Appendix I, giving them the highest level of protection. And it must happen immediately: on 23-28 October in Manila, Philippines, at the 12th Conference of Parties (COP12) of the CMS.

The challenge is then for the Vulture Range States and others to put in place all the resources, legislation and conservation measures, including via national action plans, necessary to avoid a vulture and human-health catastrophe. With this machinery in place, international vulture conservation would be shifted into a higher gear.


The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) is holding its twelfth Conference of Parties (CMS COP12) in Manila, The Philippines, on 23-28 October.

In advance of the CMS COP, click here to view the Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP).