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17 Dec 2015

West African Ambassadors endorse BirdLife’s Vulture Campaign

The Ambassadors' reactions showed that it's possible to build political support to change behaviours, attitudes and policy to protect vultures in Africa, quite quickly. Her Excellency Youngor Telewoda, Liberian Ambassador. Photo: Tsubasa Iwabuchi
By Shaun Hurrell

Ten ambassadors of West African countries this week strongly endorsed the BirdLife International African Vulture Campaign, which seeks to raise vital awareness and funds for a decade-long programme to try and halt – and ultimately reverse – the precipitous declines these birds have suffered in the last 30 years.

Dr Thompson from BirdLife explains the current African vulture crisis and its potential consequences. Photo: Tsubasa Iwabuchi

At a meeting at the Nigerian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan, on 15 December, Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado (the Honorary President of BirdLife International) and Dr. Hazell Shokellu Thompson (Director for Partnership and Regions at BirdLife International), presented the precarious current status of the 11 species of vultures in Africa – eight of them found nowhere else – set out the threats causing the current declines in Africa.

The Tokyo-based ambassadors, including meeting chair Ambassador of the Republic of Liberia to Japan, heard that poisoning; persecution and trade in vulture parts for traditional medicine among other things have resulted in six of Africa’s vulture species being declared on the brink of extinction this year.

BirdLife's Honorary President, HIH Princess Takamado explaining the importance for West Africa to open doors towards the protection of vultures in policy.</br>Photo: Tsubasa Iwabuchi

Importantly, BirdLife explained, vultures play a vital role in human lives including sanitation, prevention of disease and acting as early warning systems against poachers.

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They also set out BirdLife’s four point vulture conservation plan which is seeking to raise public awareness and build political support; protect key vulture conservation areas; combat poisoning; and seeking to understand the science of vulture conservation better.

Vultures are disappearing because they are misunderstood. Yet at the end of the presentations,

the ambassadors emphasised how quickly their personal attitudes and distaste for vultures had been reversed after having the importance of vultures to human well-being and the roles they play in our ecosystems explained to them. They expressed their full support for the campaign.

We hope to strengthen policy to protect vultures,</br>with the help of Ambassadors taking a stand for them.</br>His Excellency Inalegwu Victor Ogah,</br>Nigerian Ambassador. Photo: Tsubasa Iwabuchi

The ambassadors – from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo (all ECOWAS countries - Economic Community of West African States) – advised that similar presentations should be made at key policy gatherings of African leaders in 2016 including at the African Union.

They indicated that they would support efforts to raise awareness and change attitudes in their countries.

 

Reflecting on the significance of the meeting, Dr. Hazell Shokellu Thompson said:

“The reactions of the Ambassadors showed that it is quite possible to start to build political support to change behaviours and attitudes, as well as strengthen policy to protect vultures in Africa, quite quickly. We need to build on this meeting and work with our national BirdLife partners in Africa to take forward the suggestions of the Ambassadors in 2016.”

We thank all involved for their input into this important meeting.


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