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World without Vulture’s sanitary services lead to diseases

By Cecilia Emmanuel

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) said nature has bestowed vultures as environmental sanitary officers with a clean-up service worth $11,000 in a year.

The Director of Technical Programmes, NCF, Dr. Joseph Onoja stated this during a five days commemoration of the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) held through webinars hosted on five different days to promote conservation.

 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.”

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, and also to spread awareness about range of threat facing vultures and urge the people to take action to prevent extinction of the ecological bird species.

However, as the need to promote conservation message becomes more important in the face of the world battling the effect of COVID-19, and in order to prevent another pandemic through zoonotic disease, International and local NGOs embarked on vulture conservation awareness campaign in Africa.

Speaking, a conservation biologist and ornithologist, Mr. Aniekan-Abasi Emmah Uwatt observed that human activities are the major driver of vultures’ threatened status. 
He said the world could suffer from negligence if something drastic is not 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,” he said.

For Mr. Apeverga Paul Tersoo, a Lecturer with Federal University Dutse, Jigawa State, Vultures may not be very appealing by their looks, but “these birds, also known as scavengers do the dirty jobs of cleaning our environment by taking care of carcasses and preventing the spread of diseases which in turn keeps the ecosystem healthy.”
He said the importance of these natural environmental cleaners cannot be over emphasized because the benefits derived from them for free will cost the world so much that it can only be imagined.

In his presentation, Mallam Samaila Mohammed Alkali of Airport Wildlife Hazard Management Coordinator, Kano Airport 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. Approximately 10,692 vultures were killed by Aircrafts between 2008 -2015, these may represent 1, 500 Vultures killed every year for the period of 7years,” he said. 

Also, Head of Forest Centre, IITA Ibadan, Mr. Adewale Awoyemi observed that the vanishing vultures have critical implications on human health and existence. The destruction of their habitats by deforestation is a threat to vulture conservation.

Meanwhile, 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),  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.

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