The Success of the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project in Niger

Every 14 countries involved in the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project will have had a different experience. Although working towards the same goal of strengthening the Eastern European population of Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) by implementing urgent conservation measures to eliminate the main threats, each partner had to adapt to the local context, especially to the needs and threats to be addressed.

In Niger, this project was a great opportunity. As in most of Africa, vultures used to be widely present, but their populations have declined significantly in the last decades. However, few monitoring and conservation activities have been carried out in the country, and the current knowledge of avian scavengers is quite limited to implementing tailored conservation actions.

Thus, the Egyptian vulture New LIFE project enabled to intensify the work of SaharaConservation and wildlife authorities on vultures in Niger. Primarily, focusing on the threats to these birds has provided the evidence and resources necessary to implement novel conservation actions.

Illegal killing for use in traditional practices was identified as the main threat to vultures in the country. The data collected allowed us to understand the roots and the ins and outs of these practices and develop a targeted conservation strategy involving a wide range of stakeholders.

Capacity-building sessions for the relevant authorities were organised conjointly with meetings with the main stakeholders involved in those practices, namely hunters and traditional practitioners. The involvement of local leaders, active sensitisation of local populations, and an introduction to environmental education for the younger generation have increased public commitment to vulture conservation.

This interconnected approach helped raise global awareness, empower stakeholders to take responsibility for vulture conservation in Niger, and build local capacity to address these threats.

In total, approximately 5,000 people were directly involved in the project.

A comparative study of markets in targeted regions of Niger highlighted the decrease in the number of vultures for sale, with 36 found in 2019 versus only one in 2022 in the same markets.  These positive results, benefiting migratory Egyptian vultures and all vulture species present in Niger, reflect the involvement and commitment of the various stakeholders. This project has revealed the motivation of the different actors to fight for the conservation of vultures on their territory.

Beyond the direct impacts, this project has also brought to light regions and populations that have been little studied and somewhat neglected.

Efforts remain to be made, but after five years of work, these results are encouraging and suggest that these species can be saved in this region of the world.

 

Cloé Pourchier and Abdoul Razack Moussa Zabeirou