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On 7th September 2019, the world marked the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), a day set aside to create awareness about vultures, and celebrate their important role in cleaning up the environment thus preventing the spread of dangerous diseases.

By Lewis Kihumba

Cover photo: rangers from Awash and Hallaydege Asebot National Parks in Ethiopia, undergo training on Vulture Identification and Awareness Raising

BirdLife partner organizations across Africa marked this day with various activities and events to highlight the decline of vulture populations across the continent. In Botswana, BirdLife Botswana in conjunction with the government, the business sector and other conservation organizations marked the day with a march that brought together more than 200 participants.

The event also included   entertainment including   drama and poems from school children. In addition to raising funds from the business sector, geared towards supporting awareness raising on the need to conserve vultures. Botswana is home to five vulture species, with three listed as critically endangered and two as endangered. “It is good to see the government, conservation organizations and even the business sector come together to support the vulture cause. Other organizations in Botswana should join these efforts to prevent the dangerous decline of vultures”, remarked Lesedi Keabetswe one of the participants in the march.

Building the capacity of partners is critical for successful vulture conservation efforts. In Ethiopia, BirdLife International partner, Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) celebrated IVAD in an event that brought together senior officials from the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), rangers from Awash and Hallaydege Asebot National Parks, local administrative officers, conservationists and the media.

A highlight of the celebration was a three-day training on Vulture Identification and Awareness Raising, as part of the European Union (EU) funded Egyptian Vulture New Life Project. The training held at Awash National Park, saw 40 rangers learn about the various birds found in the country and their economic importance. In addition, the rangers learnt about the importance of vultures in the ecosystem, identifying the 8 different species of vultures found in Ethiopia, and how to collect feeding, roosting, breeding and mortality data of vultures.

It was also announced that the parks management and EWNHS in partnership with experts would establish a regional database of vulture mortality to help understand threats facing vultures in the country and across the region.

Sensitization of the public through the media including radio and television is critical in raising awareness about vultures. BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International partner in Zambia, celebrated IVAD with a radio show to talk vultures, and highlight conservation efforts in the country including the setting up of vulture safe zones. In Ghana, the Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS) held a live TV discussion focussing on the need to conserve vultures in the country.  This discussion also centred around the vulture Multi–Species Action Plan, a global conservation plan to protect vulture species.

In Nigeria, the vulture day was marked with awareness events, rallies, meetings, and workshops in four key vulture hotspots in the country namely Sokoto, Jalingo, Enugu and Ibadan led by Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF) – BirdLife partner in Nigeria with support from the European Union (EU) funded Egyptian Vulture New Life Project. These events brought together various participants including government officials, conservationists, medical practitioners, hunters and farmers to raise awareness about the importance and plight of vultures in the country. 

Sensitization activities to raise awareness on the importance of vultures in Ibadan, Nigeria during IVAD

“It is important to know that vultures are very important to us, and if they die we have a lot to lose. We all have a duty to take care of vultures”, remarked Chukwu Oyesola, one of the participants attending the awareness raising event in Enugu.

West Africa, and particularly Nigeria has seen a drastic decline in vulture numbers due to hunting for food and traditional medicine purposes, poisoning, and agriculture among others. Event participants were sensitized about the status of vulture population in Nigeria, and the need to safeguard these birds, with local leaders pledging support for vulture conservation efforts in the country.

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