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. 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 by raising awareness with all the stakeholders.
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. 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.
Changing vulture culture
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.
At last, we aim to improve our knowledge about their seasonal movement and distribution by tagging birds in Niger with GPS/Satellite transmitters. The data collected during the fieldwork and from the tagged birds will provide critical information for vulture conservation action plan to include in protected area management and planning of the Gadabeji Faunal Reserve and the Termit & Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve.
In addition to the monitoring of these tagged Arabian Bustards in Niger, 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.