The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) has identified the need for vulture preservation as a way of averting zoonotic disease which could result in another endemic.
The foundation pointed this out at 2020 occasion of International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), that was observed virtually for five days.
In one of his presentations, Director of Technical programmes, NCF, Dr. Joseph Onoja, enlightened that nature has blessed humans with vultures, which offer same service as environmental sanitary officers, providing a clean-up service worth $11,000 in a year.
He said, “Without vultures, humans are vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases, because, in the absence of vultures, dogs and rats become the clean-up crew. The danger in this is that these animals are not equipped for such and are close to human population, exposing us to diseases.”
Also speaking, a conservation biologist and ornithologist, Mr. Aniekan-Abasi Emmah Uwatt, observed that human activities were the major drivers to the vultures’ threatened status.
He stated that the world could regret being negligent if nothing is done to preserve the remaining vulture species in Nigeria.
“Imagine a world without vultures, it will lead to disease outbreaks such as anthrax; rabies; botulism; we would also have dirty environment with dead carcasses and foul smells.”
On his part, a Lecturer at Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State , Mr. Apeverga Paul Tersoo, said that Vultures may not be very appealing by their looks, but the birds, also known as scavengers do the dirty jobs of cleaning the environment by taking care of carcasses and preventing the spread of diseases which in turn keeps the ecosystem healthy.
“The importance of these natural environmental cleaners cannot be over emphasized because the benefits we derive from them for free will cost us so much that it can only be imagined.
“A case study is seen in India where a crash in the vulture population was observed after the birds fed on carcasses of livestock that were treated with Diclofenac. The Indian white-rumped vulture was the most hit, with a decline rate of 99.9%. What followed was a surge in population of feral dogs that were infected with rabies from litters of carcasses as a result of the absence of our natural cleaners (the vultures).
“Consequently, an increase in human deaths from rabies nearly caused a public health catastrophe that saw the government of India spending about $34 billion to fight the spread of the disease.”
While presenting his speech, Airport Wildlife Hazard Management Coordinator, Kano Airport, Mallam Samaila Mohammed Alkali, said that aviation is a major threat to the survival of vultures.
“This is due to bird strike. Bird strikes occur when bird physically collide with aircraft.”
He added, “Approximately 10,692 vultures were killed by Aircrafts between 2008 -2015, these may represent 1500 vultures killed every year for the period of 7years.”
Head of Forest Centre, IITA, Ibadan Mr. Adewale Awoyemi, reiterated that vanishing vultures have critical implications on human health and existence.
He warned that destruction of their habitats by deforestation poses a great threat to vulture conservation.
The International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) is celebrated on the first Saturday of September every year to reflect on the importance of vultures and the essential role they play in a healthy ecosystem.
It also help to spread awareness about range of threat facing vultures, enlightening people to take action and prevent extinction of the ecological bird species.
Nigeria is home to seven out of the eleven vultures that exist in Africa. They are Egyptian Vulture- Neophronpercnopterus (Endangered), Hooded Vulture – Necrosyrtesmonachus (Endangered), White-backed Gypsafricanus (Endangered), White-headed Trigonocepsoccipitalis (Vulnerable).
Others are :Ruppell’s Griffon – Gyprueppellii (Endangered), Palm-nut Vulture – Gypohieraxangolensis (Least Concern) and Lappet-faced Vulture -Torgostracheliotus – (Endangered).The only species that seems to be thriving in the country are the Hooded Vulture and Palm-nut Vulture.