African vultures are threatened with extinction following a massive use of poison, a study by scientists from National Museums of Kenya (NMK) released on Tuesday shows.
Lead researcher, Darcy Ogada said the vultures are deliberately poisoned for the illegal trade in vulture body parts for traditional medicine, or killed for bush meat.
“The vultures are too endangered due to the reduction in habitat and the availability of food from wild animal populations, ” Ogada said, adding that poison accounts for 61 percent of all reported deaths to Africa’s vultures.
“African vultures are often the unintended victims of poisoning incidents, in which carcasses are baited with highly toxic agricultural pesticides to kill livestock predators,” Ogada noted.
Ralph Buij of Alterra Wageningen University and co-author of the report, revealed that the trade in vulture parts for traditional medicine is particularly widespread in West Africa, where they are openly traded at large markets, especially in Nigeria and Benin.
And in Southern Africa, there has been a substantial increase in the number of reported mortalities of vultures resulting from poisoning and interactions with energy infrastructure since 2011.
“Large declines of Africa’s vultures should ring alarm bells due to their immense ecological importance. Vultures are a vital component of a healthy environment, especially in Africa, where free ecosystem services such as disposal of carcasses and other waste products remain the norm,” Ogada said.
Scavengers such as vultures are essential to a healthy ecosystem; without them, carcasses are largely consumed by mammalian scavengers such as dogs and jackals, and this can increase levels of disease transmission, with possibly dire consequences for human health.
The study calls on the international community to consider including African vultures as “Critically Endangered” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) global threat criteria. Enditem

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