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Saving Nature’s Clean-Up Crew

Nairobi, Kenya

Most vultures are teetering on the brink of extinction across Africa. Considering the vital role they play in preventing spread of life-threatening diseases, we must do everything we can to save these unsung heroes. Read project description


Funds
139% £69,313 / £50,000
Volunteers
90% 18/20
Promoters
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Most vultures are teetering on the brink of extinction across Africa. Considering the vital role they play in preventing spread of life-threatening diseases, we must do everything we can to save these unsung heroes.

A Common Misconception

What do you think of when you imagine vultures?

Vultures have had a tough time in the public eye. They are saddled with cultural perceptions relating to death, decay and maliciousness.

On top of this, some species are not renowned for being the prettiest… Vultures are the outcasts, left lacking the compassion that we feel for the plight of the endangered lion, eagle or panda.

In a survey conducted by BirdLife International, 75% of people think of vultures as dirty undertakers – the thought that they circle helpless prey a common theme.

Conversely, these cautious creatures are themselves the ones that are helpless to the threat of human persecution.

The Rarest Unsung Hero

Affectionately known by nature-lovers worldwide, vultures are ‘Nature’s Clean-up Crew’. They clean our landscapes like no other.

They are in reality fantastically hygienic, caring parents, and quite shy characters – and in the right light you might say that some of these majestic soaring animals are beautiful ;)

A biological recycling team, vultures play a vital role in clearing away carcasses and preventing the spread of diseases like anthrax, rabies, tuberculosis and botulism. They are essential for our health.

Without their heroics, these diseases contaminate water sources, creating a knock-on effect that threatens both ours and our animal compatriot’s lives.

Think: packs of feral dogs, rats, and less-efficiently consumed carcasses…

How would your local environment look (and smell) if the garbage disposal team disappeared?

The Harsh Reality

Vultures are vanishing at alarming rates! They are poisoned, persecuted and electrocuted. Their habitats are degraded and their chicks starved. The human race have intentionally and inadvertently killed thousands of vultures in Africa, Asia and beyond.

Facts:

  • In just 30 years vulture numbers in West Africa have declined by 95% outside protected areas.

  • Over the same period more than half of the vulture population in Kenya’s Masai Mara have gone.

  • Today 75% of old-world vultures are slipping toward extinction.

  • Hooded Vultures have declined by 62% across Africa since the ‘90s, and much more rapidly in some areas.

  • Only about 100 pairs of Bearded Vultures are left in South Africa having reduced from about 200 pairs 20-30 years ago.

  • Together, threats from poisoning and trade in traditional medicines account for 90% of reported vulture deaths in Africa.

Focusing our Efforts

“With a Ten Year Plan to save vultures in Africa, we will address all associated issues to stem the current decline”, said Paul Kariuki Ndang’ang’a, Leader, Species Science Team, BirdLife Africa.

In 2015/16 we focus primarily on stopping the poisoning epidemic in Africa. This includes developing and trialling evidence-based solutions for vulture conservation in Africa, raising awareness, influencing policy and creating Vulture Safe Zones.

“Your support for these unsung heroes is vital,” said Roger Safford, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Coordinator.

“Funds raised will go toward working on the ground with local people, governments, individual experts, institutions and our 24 BirdLife partners in Africa in a coordinated pan-African response to this vulture crisis.”

Be part of Nature’s Clean-up Crew and help us save these incredible creatures from extinction!

We’ve done it before - Asia

In Asia we saw a decline of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal almost overnight. Veterinary diclofenac caused an unprecedented decline in the three species - White-rumped, the long-billed and the slender-billed Vulture. Oriental white-backed Vulture declined by more than 99.9% between 1992 and 2007, with the loss of tens of millions of individuals.

Like vultures in Africa, it looked like all hope was lost...

However, years of campaigning by conservationists including BirdLife International, the governments of India, Nepal, and Pakistan banned veterinary formulations of diclofenac between 2006 and 2010.

There is still much to be done, but we are starting to win the fight for Asia's vultures and, with your support, we can do it for Africa's vultures too.

We’ve done it before - Seabirds

Many seabirds, particularly albatrosses and petrels, have undergone rapid population declines, making them the most threatened group of birds and leaving many species close to extinction

At BirdLife we're changing the way the world’s fisheries operate, to reduce seabird mortality.

We have formed the Albatross Task Force, the world's first international team of seabird bycatch mitigation instructors working at-sea on commercial fishing vessels, and we are leading at-sea testing of innovative new measures to prevent seabird bycatch.

Since its formation, we have seen dramatic reductions in the numbers of albatrosses and other seabirds killed, with the ATF in South Africa leading the way by demonstrating a sustained reduction of >85% in trawl and longline fisheries.

We're now also tackling the growing number of threats to seabirds, and can do the same for vultures across Africa.

How you can help?

Together we can restore Nature’s Clean-up Crew to their post as integral to our fully-functioning ecosystem. And maybe this time, the people of the world will look at them in the positive light and with the accolades they deserve. 

You can support BirdLife's vital work in Africa to save vultures today by donating, purchasing rewards, volunteering for an Official BirdLife Role and by spreading the word amongst your friends, colleagues and family.

On behalf of BirdLife International and the vultures of Africa - thank you.

PROJECT UPDATES:

Update #5: 05/11/15 03:12 PM

Africa’s vultures are sliding towards extinction warns BirdLife

Six of Africa’s 11 vulture species are now on the edge of extinction, according to the latest assessment of birds carried out by BirdLife International for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Six of Africa’s 11 vulture species – the continent’s largest and most recognisable birds of prey – are now at a higher risk of extinction, according to the latest assessment of birds carried out by BirdLife International for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The main causes of the drop in African vulture populations are thought to be indiscriminate poisonings, where the birds are drawn to poisoned baits, use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine, and deliberate targeting by poachers, as the presence of vultures can alert authorities to illegally killed big game carcasses.

Dr Julius Arinaitwe, BirdLife International’s Africa Programme Director, said:

“As well as robbing the African skies of one of their most iconic and spectacular groups of birds, the rapid decline of the continent’s vultures has profound consequences for its people – as vultures help stop the spread of diseases by cleaning up rotting carcasses.”

“However, now we are becoming aware of the sheer scale of the declines involved, there is still just enough time for conservationists to work with law-makers, faith-based organisations, government agencies and local people, to make sure there is a future for these magnificent scavengers.”

We’re not just going to sit around and watch vultures fall out of the sky. 

BirdLife Partners recently came together to take action for African vultures - making a commitment to save 'Nature's clean-up crew'.

Patricia Zurita (BirdLife's Chief Executive) with Bradnee Chambers (Executive Secretary of the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)) recently made a commitment to ensure that the plight of these essential creatures is made known to a global audience.

It is high-time the world fully-appreciated the severity of this problem - for not only the birds themselves, but the health of the people of the continent. 


Today, BirdLife launches a campaign to save Africa's vultures:


“Vultures and other birds play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems,” said Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Their decline can have serious knock-on effects on other species and the many benefits provided by nature. While it is encouraging to see some positive outcomes of conservation action, this update is an important wake-up call, showing that urgent efforts need to be taken to protect these species.”

More on vultures

 

Graphic: Birdorable
Graphic: Birdorable

 

Six species of African vultures have seen their status worsen:

·         Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

·         White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

·         White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis: Vulnerable to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

·         Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii: Endangered to CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

·         Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres: Vulnerable to ENDANGERED

·         Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos: Vulnerable to ENDANGERED

Five other species of vulture are found in Africa, and one of these is already classified as Endangered (Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus), with two others Near Threatened (Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus and Cinereous Vulture Aegypius monachus).

Just two species that occur in Africa, the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus, a predominantly Southern European and Central Asian species, and the mainly vegetarian Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis, are still regarded as Least Concern, though numbers of Griffon vulture in Africa are also thought to be declining.

In Africa, the situation is not attributable to a single issue – unlike in South Asia, where the three previously most common vulture species have seen numbers decline by 98% in recent years as a result of feeding on carcasses of livestock treated with the veterinary drug diclofenac (a medicine used to treat cattle and highly toxic to vultures). 

In Africa, the main causes of a drop in vulture populations appears to be threefold, primarily the indiscriminate poisoning of vultures – a by-product of people trying to deliberately eradicate mammalian predators of livestock (and in some areas feral dogs), with the poisoned carcasses or baits inadvertently attracting vultures.

Another major issue is the use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine – a recent scientific paper found that 29% of the vulture deaths recorded continent-wide could be attributed to this secretive trade. These practices are thought to be widespread in West Africa, as well as Southern Africa. Body parts of vultures are used by the traditional medicine industry for a number of purposes.

The third most significant threat to African vultures appears to be poachers deliberately targeting the birds to avoid them giving away the presence of their illegally killed big game carcases, such as rhinos or elephants. Between July 2011 and 2014, at least ten such poisoning incidents were discovered, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,500 vultures across six southern African countries.

Other factors thought to play a role in the declines include habitat loss, human disturbance and collisions with wind turbines and electricity pylons.

Update #4: 26/10/15 09:32 AM

BirdLife Partners commit to saving Africa’s vultures

Nature’s clean-up crew are in drastic decline so BirdLife Partners come together to take action. Dr Kabelo Senyatso pledges for BirdLife Botswana. Photo: Obaka Torto
Nature’s clean-up crew are in drastic decline so BirdLife Partners come together to take action. Dr Kabelo Senyatso pledges for BirdLife Botswana. Photo: Obaka Torto
 

“I can’t imagine Africa’s skies devoid of vultures,” said BirdLife South Africa’s Chief Executive, Mark Anderson, when he chaired a crucial meeting last week to take action against this currently ill-fated family of birds.

And it is not just the skies - you do not want to imagine how the land will look (and smell) if Africa is devoid of vultures, nature’s unique and thorough waste and carcass ‘clean-up crew’ that halts the spread of disease for free.

You see, vultures are in drastic decline in Africa and it is high-time the world fully-appreciated the severity of this problem for not only the birds themselves, but the health of the people of the continent (and their livelihoods - given the economic value of carcass removal by vultures).

“Africans, who derive direct benefits from having their vultures in their skies, must take the lead in mitigating threats to African vultures,”

said Dr Kabelo Senyatso, Director of BirdLife Botswana and current Chairman of the BirdLife Council for African Partnership.

 

A trailer-load of dead vultures from one poisoning incident. Photo: Simon Thomsett
A trailer-load of dead vultures from one poisoning incident. Photo: Simon Thomsett
A coordinated response is urgently needed that does justice to the scale of this imminent crisis

 

As such, BirdLife Partner NGOs across Africa join forces and commit to playing a leading role in efforts to save the continent’s vultures. This is the conclusion of a workshop on African vultures held at the BirdLife Council for Africa Partnership Meeting in Senchi, Ghana, on 13 October 2015. The energy and warm air in that meeting room gave a real uplift towards getting vulture populations soaring once again in Africa.

 

Vultures need to be allowed time to recover. Lappet-faced vultures on a nest. Photo: Andy & Gill Swash
Vultures need to be allowed time to recover. Lappet-faced vultures on a nest. Photo: Andy & Gill Swash
Not having the best cultural reputation, Africa’s vultures need all the support they can get at the moment. As South Asia’s vulture populations have collapsed since the mid-1990s, those of Africa have also been declining, less steeply but over a longer period. This has led in many areas to a similar loss, for example around 98% of West Africa’s vultures outside protected areas have disappeared over the last 30 years. In South Africa, Cape Vulture have declined by 60-70% in the last 20-30 years. The causes of the declines in Africa are more varied and complex than those in Asia, which were driven mainly by the use in cattle of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac.

 

Africa holds 11 species of vulture, 6 of which are not found elsewhere.

They face threats from poisoning - both accidental and deliberate - related to human-carnivore conflict and the poaching of large mammals. In much of southern Africa, locals call the poison used “two-step” because an animal takes only two steps before it drops down dead.

Persecution of vultures for their body parts for use in cultural practices and divination is also a headline threat - for example contributing majorly to an 80% decline in Hooded Vulture in Nigeria. Other threats include collisions with powerlines and wind energy infrastructure, habitat loss, declines in food availability and disturbance at breeding sites.

Stopping and reversing the declines, by tackling these difficult issues, is one of the greatest challenges facing bird conservation in Africa. Though we need to continue to learn more about the threats and their relative importance in different parts of Africa, we cannot afford to wait to begin to take action. Large-scale initiatives are needed, engaging strongly on political and cultural as well as socio-economic levels. 

“Rather than counselling despair,” says Roger Safford, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager, “Conservationists need to show the world that we can make a difference starting now.” 

At the Senchi meeting, BirdLife Partners and contacts representing or working in 25 vulture range states in Africa identified such activities.

 

Graphic: BirdLife South Africa
Graphic: BirdLife South Africa
Most Partners committed to changing people’s perceptions about vultures. We have new materials and momentum with which to educate, advocate and raise awareness of their value and the consequences of their disappearance.  Other commitments included focus on regulating the use of agrochemicals in East and Southern Africa, and focus on tackling traditional practices and the market for it in both South Africa and West Africa. Through local achievements, combined with the results of ongoing research, we can join forces to build up to tackle the most intractable threats such as poaching and human-wildlife conflict at source.

 

The future of a family of birds depends on what happens next.

Some Partners, such as BirdLife South Africa, have already started ground-breaking communications campaigns to get people listening.

 

Griffon Vultures bathing together. Photo: Rachid El Khamlichi & Mohammed Karim El Haoua.
Griffon Vultures bathing together. Photo: Rachid El Khamlichi & Mohammed Karim El Haoua.
The BirdLife Partners also recognised the crucial need to work together, with not only other bird conservation organisations active in Africa, such as the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Vulture Specialist Group, The Peregrine Fund and Endangered Wildlife Trust; but also those concerned with other species, such as elephants, hyenas and lions, that are also affected by many of the same threats.

 

“The threats facing these magnificent birds should compel all of us – not just conservation agencies – to take an interest and have an active role in saving them,” commented Dr Senyatso.

Patricia Zurita, with Bradnee Chambers (Executive Secretary of the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)) recently made a commitment to ensure that the plight of these essential creatures is made known to a global audience.

Beyond this, the health, sanitation, tourism, agriculture and other sectors all experience the consequences of the loss of ‘nature’s clean-up crew’ (for example the decline in vultures had an estimated annual cost of $1.5 billion to human health in India), and will all gain from solutions to the crisis. This brings in Governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies (including regional trade blocs), scientific bodies and many others. Religious leaders, too, have a key role to play in spreading the concern for vultures, and showing that trade in and use of vulture body parts for cultural and divination practices needs to stop.

With the support of the BirdLife International Partnership, lessons will be learned, and shared, with Europe and Asia, where much progress has been made but threats remain such as thelicensing of veterinary diclofenac in Europe. The recent ban on veterinary diclofenac announced by the Government of Iran is a very welcome step to be emulated elsewhere.

 

We're in it for the long haul.
We're in it for the long haul.

 

A few days before the Senchi meeting, countries across Eurasia and Africa had agreed to list twelve vulture species, including all the highly threatened African species, as priorities for action under the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey (Raptors MOU) – a subsidiary agreement under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – as a response to the African vulture crisis. This brings new opportunities to strengthen and link Government and civil society commitments to national and regional initiatives such as the Pan‐African Vulture Strategy, through the development of a Multi-species Action Plan covering all the vultures of the Old World.

Dr Senyatso directs his words to the people of Africa:

“If you pause for a minute to think about what an African sky without vultures means to your own personal life, you will realise that you need to actively participate in their conservation.” 

To conclude, watch this space... We’re not just going to sit around and watch vultures fall out of the sky. 

“We can turn this generation around to understanding that vultures are most important when they are alive and fulfilling their unique role in the ecosystem,”

says BirdLife’s Chief Executive, Patricia Zurita.

“Let’s save nature’s clean-up crew.”

Update #3: 20/10/15 03:23 PM

Vultures are adorable with Birdorable

Vultures have had a tough time in the public eye. They are saddled with cultural perceptions relating to death, decay and maliciousness.

On top of this, some species are not renowned for being the prettiest… Vultures are the outcasts, left lacking the compassion that we feel for the plight of the endangered lion, eagle or panda.

But BirdLife knows vultures are not only important for our planet, they are also beautiful birds.

That’s why we’re delighted that Birdorable have got behind out campaign and produced a fabulous Digital Reward Artwork showcasing all eleven species of vultures found in African.

They have also kindly produced a map of the vultures of Africa as follows:

Thank you so much Birdorable!

http://www.birdorable.com/ 

Update #2: 15/10/15 09:28 AM

Original artwork makes £960 for Africa’s Vultures

An original artwork by Alex May raised £960 at a recent BirdLife event in aid of African Vulture conservation.

The Lappet-faced Vulture drawing was a prize in a raffle draw, and all the funds raised are going towards our campaign.

Thank you so much Alex for your support!

http://www.alex-may.uk/  

Update #1: 13/10/15 02:51 PM

Campaign is launched at London event!

We launched BirdLife’s campaign to save African vultures at a special dinner hosted at the Institute of Directors in London on the 1st October.

Over 70 supporters attended this annual gathering of the BirdLife Rare Bird Club, which marked the official start to the campaign.

Speaking on the evening was photographer, TV Presenter and wildlife cameraman Charlie Hamilton-James (pictured), who shared his passion for African Vultures, and highlighted the crisis they are facing.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event which raised nearly £27,000  in pledges to kick-start the campaign to help BirdLife's work to conserve African vultures.

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country – and growing.

We are driven by our belief that local people, working for nature in their own places but connected nationally and internationally through our global Partnership, are the key to sustaining all life on this planet. This unique local-to-global approach delivers high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people.

BirdLife is widely recognised as the world leader in bird conservation. Rigorous science informed by practical feedback from projects on the ground in important sites and habitats enables us to implement successful conservation programmes for birds and all nature.

We believe that our actions are providing both practical and sustainable solutions significantly benefiting nature and people. On this website you will find many examples of BirdLife success stories from every corner of the globe.

  • BirdLife International

PROJECT COMMENTS:

Thank you Tweet from @BirdLife_News

  • Cost :
  • £10
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • Unlimited

Get a thanks from the BirdLife team. We'll send a personal thank to you on our @BirdLife_News Twitter - reaching over 38k people! Don't forget to leave us your Twitter username.

Birdorable Digital Artwork

  • Cost :
  • £10
  • Delivery:
  • 31/12/2015
  • Available:
  • Unlimited

Get a limited-edition digital artwork made by Birdorable artists. The brilliant artwork features Birdorable character of all species of vulture found in Africa and a thank you message from BirdLife.

Angry Birds Plush Toy!

  • Cost :
  • £15
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • 45

Get your own Angry Birds plush toy. a limited number are available and you'll get either a Red, Blue or Green (pig) plush toy, about 8" in size. A great toy for the home or office, or gift for the Angry Birds fan.

BirdLife Limited Edition Pin Badge

  • Cost :
  • £25
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • 91

Get a limited edition BirdLife Term chromed pin badge. Perfect for pinning on your clothes, binoculars or camera, or a gift for someone.

A Years membership to World Bird Club

  • Cost :
  • £85
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • Unlimited

Receive an exclusive membership to BirdLife's World Bird Club - including subscription the world's best bird watching magazine - World Birdwatch.

You will also receive a limited edition chrome BirdLife pin badge.

Your delivery address for the first edition will be the address for the rest of the year. Please advise if this is not OK.

High-Level BirdLife Thank You

  • Cost :
  • £2,500
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • 4

We will send you a personalized thank you video. You will be listed as a sponsor on the BirdLife website and across our official communications throughout the project.

Thank you Tweet from @BirdLife_News

  • Cost :
  • £10
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • Unlimited

Get a thanks from the BirdLife team. We'll send a personal thank to you on our @BirdLife_News Twitter - reaching over 38k people! Don't forget to leave us your Twitter username.

Birdorable Digital Artwork

  • Cost :
  • £10
  • Delivery:
  • 31/12/2015
  • Available:
  • Unlimited

Get a limited-edition digital artwork made by Birdorable artists. The brilliant artwork features Birdorable character of all species of vulture found in Africa and a thank you message from BirdLife.

BirdLife Limited Edition Pin Badge

  • Cost :
  • £25
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • 91

Get a limited edition BirdLife Term chromed pin badge. Perfect for pinning on your clothes, binoculars or camera, or a gift for someone.

A Years membership to World Bird Club

  • Cost :
  • £85
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • Unlimited

Receive an exclusive membership to BirdLife's World Bird Club - including subscription the world's best bird watching magazine - World Birdwatch.

You will also receive a limited edition chrome BirdLife pin badge.

Your delivery address for the first edition will be the address for the rest of the year. Please advise if this is not OK.

High-Level BirdLife Thank You

  • Cost :
  • £2500
  • Delivery:
  • 23/12/2015
  • Available:
  • 4

We will send you a personalized thank you video. You will be listed as a sponsor on the BirdLife website and across our official communications throughout the project.


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