Nigeria: Vultures on the verge of extinction


As many birders/conservationists will know 99% of Asia’s vultures have been wiped out in the last two decades, killed by visceral gout brought on by feeding on cattle previously dosed with the anti-inflammatory drug Diclofencac. Four species are now Critically Endangered. What is perhaps less well-known is that Africa’s vultures are also disappearing fast – this time through a combination of poisoning (the horrendously toxic Furadan), being killed for food, and for use in ‘juju’ or magic.

The excerpt below is taken from an excellent article by Tadaferua Ujorha that appeared in Nigeria’s “Weekly Trust” last week.


Vultures on the verge of extinction, 18 Feb 12:

  • “Five of the six species of vultures in Nigeria have been wiped out, according to a scholar. True to the scholar’s finding, only dead Vultures are now found in places where they once flourished. Meanwhile, there are just a few programmes that currently address the drop in the population.

    If you raise your eyes and look into the trees , or, if you decide to visit any of the numerous abattoirs in the country, you may not see any Vultures. The drop in Vulture numbers is not just a Nigerian, but also a regional problem. In Liberia, the Vulture population has dropped, owing to the fact that during the country’s 14-year civil war, Liberians suddenly began to consume Vultures, when there was a scarcity of meat. A butcher in Liberia confirmed this at Monrovia’s main abattoir.

    Vultures clean up the environment and their absence may explain the frequent outbreak of diseases in the region. Ruth Akagu, Senior Conservation Officer , Species and IBA Programme, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) says “Vultures play an extremely important ecological role in most terrestrial ecosystems. They keep the environment free of carcasses, waste (including human excrement), thereby restricting the spread of diseases (such as Anthrax and botulism) and pests such as rats. Hence their decline as a significant scavenger can lead to associated changes within their environment.”

    The only Vultures seen during the investigation in Nigeria were dead ones being sold in markets. A live Vulture costs 20,000 Naira, while a dried one goes for 7,000 Naira. In Ibadan a live Vulture costs 25,000 Naira. Some of these Vultures, such as the dried ones seen at Giwa near Zaria, are said to have been imported from both Chad and Niger Republics. This may indicate a striking drop in the Vulture population locally, and naturally justifies the importation of same.

    Yet, most Nigerian communities have ancient taboos, which forbid the killing or eating of Vultures. In Auchi, Weekly Trust gathered that Vultures always depart from a town where the inhabitants do not give the elders any respect. In most parts of the north, it is forbidden to eat of its meat, and the Vulture is seen as a ‘demonic bird’ in some quarters. A Yoruba incantation states ‘It is forbidden to kill a Vulture. It’s forbidden to use Vultures for rituals’.

    Weekly Trust investigations reveal that there are no vultures in the abattoirs and markets in Lafia, Lagos, Suleja, Keffi, Owerri, Calabar, Auchi, Zaria, Ibadan and Lokoja, despite the fact that in some of the abatoirs such as the Oko-Oba abbatoir in Lagos, up to a hundred cows are slaughtered daily.”

For the rest of the article please go to:


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About the author

Passionate about animal welfare and conservation, veggie and dairy-free, I live in the Wiltshire (UK) countryside. I co-founded Birders Against Wildlife Crime and Birds Korea. Trustee of the League against Cruel Sports On Twitter @charliemoores

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