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Egyptian vulture conservation: latest field activities 

Vultures face many threats which vary a lot depending on their location, ranging from electrocution to poaching. As part of the Egyptian Vultures NEW LIFE project, SCF conducted a survey to understand the threats faced by the birds in Niger.

 

Poaching had already been reported in the country, which encouraged the team to first focus on this kind of threat. We asked questions to members of the local communities, traditional hunters, but also healers, and visited local markets in search of possible vultures for sale, as we knew they were used in traditional medicine. In addition to this very local use, we knew there were also poachers coming from Nigeria to kill numerous birds for sorcery and black magic ritual needs, something we repeatedly thought of as a an important possible cause for vulture’s decline in these areas of Niger (near Maradi and Zinder).

 

At the market
A local market in Kazoé, Niger. This man sells plants but also animal parts among which were wings and legs from different vulture species.

 

Close up of birds parts for sale
Close-up of birds parts for sale at the market.

 

The economy of Niger strongly relies upon its agriculture and livestock. We considered then the use of pesticides and veterinary drugs as a possible threat, since it may also be harmful to vultures. The main known Egyptian Vulture population so far in Niger lives in the Koutous Massif in the region of Zinder. That’s why we conducted most of our interviews in this area. We selected farmers and pastoralists with different profiles to have a representative sample and interviewed them. Their millet, sorghum, or sesame fields could vary by several hectares, and their livestock would include just a dozen sheep and goats to about a hundred cows, with even a few horses sometimes.

 

interview of farmers
Interview with farmers next to a pond where SCF had already observed Egyptian vultures.

 

But it turned out that the inhabitants of these rural areas had limited access to these kinds of chemicals. However, we understood their knowledge of these products was relatively low, and many of them had already bought some from unskilled and uncontrolled sellers.

 

These interviews has allowed SCF team to collect a lot of interesting data and confirmed poaching as the possible main threat to vultures in Niger.