SCF has been monitoring lappet-faced vulture nests at Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve since 2008 and has collected many data on the vultures in Niger and Chad. In regards of the dramatic vulture decline in the Sahel, the need to monitor the breeding populations and understand the foraging ranges and resource areas for the adults of these populations and the survival rates of young birds in the breeding colony is more important than ever.
Surveys carried out in the Sahel over the past 20 years have shown the tremendous decline of previously common vultures, such as the hooded, Rüppell’s and lappet-faced, the Egyptian, white-backed and white-headed. Their decline is due to a combination of habitat loss, poisoning and persecution.
Sahelo-Saharan bustards are among the most endangered but least studied birds globally.
To reverse this silent extinction, SCF and its partners have developed a program to improve the knowledge about their ecology, including their seasonal movements and to change the perception and knowledge by raising awareness with all the stakeholders.
Vultures Activities Overview
SCF objective is to sensitize the local community about the vulture decline in Niger and Chad and work closely with the traditional hunters to get a better understanding about the factors contributing to the decline in vulture populations in Niger and the neighboring countries, by learning more about traditional hunting practices and trade networks from the local hunters.
The Sahel and Sahara are on the flyway of the Egyptian vultures migration routes as they fly over Chad and Niger every year, from the Balkans and in particular from Bulgaria and Greece. The Egyptian Vulture is facing an important decline worldwide, and the Balkans have not been spared: from the hundreds of pairs historically present in the peninsula, about 70 pairs only are remaining, the population being victim of a 7% decline yearly for the past 30 years. To protect the species along its flyway, the Sahara Conservation Fund is participating in the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project funded by the European Union and initiated as an innovative collaboration between several partners including the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds – BSPB.
SCF and the Nigerien wildlife authorities will gain a better understanding of the cultural attitudes of those responsible for vulture poaching, the traditional uses and value of vulture parts in the black market, and any local lore about the birds that can be factored into a plan to mitigate their decline.
THE ROLE OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES
Here again, engaging the local communities is crucial to protect the vultures and bustards species. Four traditional hunters, appointed by the Sultan of Zinder, were part of the team and their expertise was used to catch the birds carefully. Indeed, traditional hunters are associated with the City of Zinder's Sultan, from whom they get their permission to hunt. SCF has worked closely with the Sultan to explain the emergency facing wildlife and bustards in particular and to raise the fact that traditional hunters are key actors to prevent illegal hunting in Niger.In addition to successfully equipping the birds, critical information about the poachers, their habits and the way they hunt, has been collected during the mission thanks to the knowledge and the collaboration of the traditional hunters. Appropriate anti-poaching missions will be soon conducted by the rangers to tackle this issue.
INVESTIGATION ON THE GROUND
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). 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.
DIRECT & INDIRECT OBSERVATION
We started to be active in the Kellé region -the Mont Koutous (highlighted with a yellow spot on the map)- seeking for birds and active nests. Direct and indirect observations were made indeed, and new nests presence recorded, allowing a better understanding of EVs exact distribution in Niger. Finally, from what has been observed in the field at that time of the year, most of the EVs recorded in the Koutous’ region were resident. One of the hosting countries is Niger, where they stay, particularly in the South-East. The areas where EVs can mostly be found are the region of Zinder and Maradi, near Nigeria. We hope that our project achievements will not only increase the knowledge about EVs distribution, but also more generally, will encourage studies and surveys of resident and migratory populations by tagging birds in Europe and Africa, including Niger and track them thanks to satellite/GPS transmitter.
In Niger, vulture persecution and collection for traditional medicine markets are the main reported threats. To address these issues, SCF has developed a public awareness campaign with the Nigerien wildlife authorities to raise awareness at the local, regional and national levels in Niger about the decline of vulture populations and their important role as scavengers and providers of ecosystem services.
Our objective is to keep sensitizing the local community about the vulture decline in Niger and Chad and work closely with the traditional hunters to get a better understanding about the factors contributing to the decline in lappet-faced vulture populations in Niger and the neighboring countries, by learning more about traditional hunting practices and trade networks from the local hunters. SCF and the Nigerien wildlife authorities will gain a better understanding of the cultural attitudes of those responsible for vulture poaching, the traditional uses and value of vulture parts in the black market, and any local lore about the birds that can be factored into a plan to mitigate their decline.
Working On Bustards
Know Them More To Protect Them Better
SCF aims to improve the knowledge about the distribution and the ecology of bustards in Chad and Niger. In Niger, SCF has been collected many data on two species of bustard: the Nubian bustard and the Arabian bustard. However, there is still little known about the distribution and seasonal movements of these two species and in particular the Arabian bustard which is highly threatened by poaching. With partners, SCF worked to improve information on genetics, distribution and seasonal movements of the Arabian bustard in Niger, using notably GPS/Satellite transmitters on the birds.
SCF records systematically during the fieldwork direct sightings of all the bustard species and in particular the Nubian bustards and the Denham bustards in Chad during their seasonal migration in the wet season. SCF aims to improve the knowledge about the distribution and the ecology of these two species in the near future by tagging them as well with GPS/Satellite transmitters.
To learn even more about the project, the following sources are available:
How To Help
Desert species are going through a silent extinction that SCF wants to, if not reverse, at least halt. Please help us save the Sahelo-Saharan wildlife and participate in the biggest conservation efforts of all times! Spread the word on this tragedy and/or contribute to our initiatives by making a donation to SCF. Every act counts.