Empowering Park Rangers to Support Vulture Conservation in Ethiopia
In the hilly terrain of Awash National Park in Ethiopia, Tigist Bogale sits among a group of rangers in a room. The rangers all dressed in jungle green uniform, listen attentively to Dr. Bruktawit Abdu, at the front of the room passionately explaining a point to the group.
By Lewis Kihumba
Tigist is part of a group of 40 rangers from the Awash National Park and Allideghi-Asebot National Park, participating in a three-day training on Vulture Identification and Awareness Raising. This training held on September 5-7, coincided with celebration of the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) 2019. The training, part of the European Union (EU) funded Egyptian Vulture New Life Project, was delivered by a panel of three experts, including Dr Bruktawit Abdu from Kotebe Metropolitan University in Addis Ababa, Alazar Dakar, and Mekonnen GebreEgziabher from the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS), BirdLife International partner in Ethiopia.
The rangers were taught about the unique diversity of birds found in Ethiopia, particularly vultures and their contribution to tourism in these two parks which receive over 12,000 visitors annually. An important part of this training was creating awareness about the role and importance of vultures in the environment. Ethiopia is home to eight vulture species, and during the training participants were taught how to identify these vulture species in addition to collecting data on feeding, roosting, breeding and mortality.
“Vultures are very important in the environment and it should be everyone’s duty to conserve them and ensure that they do not slide towards extinction. Through this training, we will now be able to identify different vulture species found in our country and collect their data, which will help conservation efforts “, remarked Edris Abdella one of the rangers at the training.
The training also entailed sessions of bird watching and identification with rangers practising what they had learnt, by identifying different vulture species. “The world has placed emphasis on the value of vultures for humankind and Ethiopia is no different. Our park rangers should contribute immensely as they are now equipped with key skills and techniques to take the conservation of vultures one step further, more specifically that of the Egyptian Vulture”, noted Mr Girma Timer, Director of Wildlife Protected Areas Development & Protection at the Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA).
In addition to this training EWNHS is committed to partnering with Ethiopia park management services and external partners to establish a regional database of vulture mortality. This will help build better understanding of the threats facing vultures across the country and in the region, thus supporting conservation efforts.