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Coalition launches online petition against vulture killings

Hussein Gollo

May. 28, 2020

By Okeoghene Akubuike
A coalition of international conservation organisations has launched an online petition dubbed #StopTheKillings, calling for action to address the unprecedented mass killings of vultures in Guinea-Bissau through poisoning.
Mr Oladapo Soneye, the Head Communications, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) made the call in a statement in Abuja on Thursday.
Members of the coalition of #StopTheKillings petition  are BirdLife International, Vulture Conservation Foundation, IUCN Vulture Specialist Group, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Peregrine Fund and Organisation for the Defence and Development of Wetlands in Guinea-Bissau (ODZH).
Soneye said that the killings, the largest incident of mass vulture deaths in the world was a big blow to conservation efforts to save Africa’s vultures.
“More than 2,000 critically endangered hooded vultures are reported to have died following deliberate poisoning with an agricultural pesticide, which is highly toxic for vultures.
“Vultures play a vital role in our environment keeping it free of decaying carcasses, yet these majestic birds have experienced catastrophic declines around the world with populations of all African vulture species plummeting by 70 to 97 per cent over the last 50 years.
“In the Guinea-Bissau case, initial investigations indicate that this mass killing of vultures is being driven by belief-based use.
“It is erroneously believed that vulture heads and other body parts have special powers and can bring good luck to users.”
He said that widespread killing of vultures in Guinea-Bissau through poisoning, the leading cause of vulture mortality in Africa, threatened to wipe out stronghold populations of these critically endangered birds.
Soneye said that the coalition of conservation organisations was calling on the Guinea-Bissau government, the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the global community to take urgent action to halt these mass killings.
“These killings can be halted by bringing to account those responsible for these atrocities, and enforcing measures to safeguard vultures.
“The large scale poisoning of vultures in Guinea-Bissau represents a major blow to vulture conservation efforts in the West African region and in Africa at large. ”
He said the petition also called on the global community to support interventions aimed at halting the persecution of vultures in Guinea-Bissau and across Africa.
Soneye quoted Mr Francisco Wambar, the Executive Director, ODZH as saying “we are urging the Guinea-Bissau government to address these mass killings urgently to safeguard Guinea-Bissau’s vulture populations.”
Prof. Carlos Lopes, retired UN Under-Secretary General was quoted as also saying: “As a long-time amateur ornithologist, I have come to admire birds’ life cycles and conservation needs.’’
“The mass deaths of vultures in my country highlights the dire vulnerability of Africa’s vultures and the need to urgently save these rapidly disappearing birds, while involving local communities in these interventions.”
Rebecca Garbett, Vulture Conservation Manager at BirdLife International, was quoted as saying: “Poisoning of vultures in Guinea-Bissau is being driven by demand for vulture body parts used for superstitious purposes such as ritual charms.’’
“Changing this trajectory will require concerted efforts from all stakeholders, most importantly local and national authorities and civil society organisations.
“Halting the killings and urgently putting in place measures to protect vultures should be a priority.”
Soneye said the NCF, which is the BirdLife partner in Nigeria was lending its support to the petition launched on Wednesday in furtherance of its “save vulture” campaign project, which started in 2017.
He said the awareness campaign had been done in major cities such as Lagos and Abuja and taken to the vulture hotspots states such as Kano, Sokoto, Taraba, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Enugu, Yobe and Oyo.
Soneye said the vulture conservation campaign “is ongoing in Nigeria’’. (NAN)
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