Humans would always pretend to have more important issues to talk about than the natural environment and its components. In some cultures, the lowest in the rung to talk about or take seriously would be vultures; a handy creature in painting the imagery of ugliness and filth. The vulture has a horrible reputation as squabbling scavengers with no sense of smell. Some species even have a devious and duplicitous appearance that have enriched our folklores from the negative standpoint. But, if anything, man is just a strand in the web of the global ecosystem and therefore lacks the justification to judge. The truth is that the global environment is imperiled today largely owing to man’s activities and/or inactivity.  Nigeria continues to lose its biological diversity because we have not matched words, policies and laws with action. Multiple distractions in the country have also not helped matters.


This article is a contribution to the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) 2019 and is aimed at seizing the momentum to wake us up to our responsibilities to the environment, in which we have steadily been failing woefully. Environmental issues have been relegated to the background as a result of reasons ranging from ignorance, socio-political and economic exigencies and also sheer disinterest. IVAD is marked in the first Saturday in September each year. This event in itself is reflective of the seriousness with which the current threat to global vulture populations is regarded. The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) should be highly commended for leading the charge in Nigeria. This foremost environmental organisation in Nigeria has been drawing the attention of Nigerians to the dangers that are already with us as a result of our collective environmental improvidence. They have been campaigning that vultures and other avian fauna be protected in the interest of human and environmental wellbeing.


Vultures are a group of birds that are ecologically vital, but as it stands today, are facing a range of severe threats in many places where they occur. As a result, many species are under pressure while some are facing extinction. This trend should be halted as vultures have been scientifically established to be very important to the environment. All over the world, vultures clean up the environment, resist tough bacteria and viruses and prevent the spread of epidemics caused by animal corpses and other organic waste. As a vital part of the ecosystem, they provide ecosystem services that contribute to human health and wellbeing in many ways including prevention of water contamination.


There are twenty-six species of vultures worldwide. Sixteen of the species are in developed countries while the remaining seven are in developing countries. All the seven species are found in Nigeria among the 940 species of birds in the country. They are Egyptian Vulture- Neophronpercnopterus (Endangered), Hooded Vulture – Necrosyrtes monachus (Endangered), White-backed vulture Gyps africanus (Endangered), White-headed vulture - Trigonocepsoccipitalis (Vulnerable),  Ruppell’s Griffon -Gyps rueppellii (Endangered),  Palm-nut Vulture - Gypohieraxangolensis (Least Concern)  and Lappet-faced Vulture -Torgos tracheliotus. The extent of endangerment and vulnerability of these species in Nigeria is of serious concern to conservationists and well-meaning people. 


“Nigerians have been most unkind to the environment”, said Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, the Director-General of NCF. “The current massive onslaught on vultures across the country is fraught with untoward consequences for the environment and humans.” Aminu-Kano who is an experienced biologist and a prominent conservationist pointed out that this development goes to show that the environmental campaigns over the years in Nigeria have not yielded much fruit. “Many people are still ignorant of the biological interplay in our ecosystems and the need to protect the various threatened and endangered species in the country,” he said.


Various studies carried out recently show that vultures are hunted down for spiritual and traditional medicinal purposes. From the Northern parts of the country to the South Western parts and now to the South East and adjoining states, the story is the same. Vultures are under intense pressure as the demand continues to rise. A combination of this increasing demand and the extinction of some vulture species from some communities in Nigeria has led to the importation of the species to meet the demand. It is that serious. 500 tonnes of vultures are trafficked monthly. According to recent findings, 43% of the birds are sourced domestically while as much as 48% are imported Benin Republic and as far as Sudan. The most commonly trafficked species of vultures is the Hooded vulture, Necrocyrtes Monachus which constitutes more than 90% of the birds traded. 


Vultures have become evidently endangered in Nigeria for many reasons. Habitat loss has rendered many faunal species not only vulnerable but in some cases pushed to the brink of extinction. Deforestation is the biggest threat to biodiversity in Nigeria. All measures put in place for the protection and sustainable management of our forest resources have been failing. Only 4% of Nigeria’s original untouched forest cover is left. The annual rate of deforestation in Nigeria is 3.5% which approximates to 350,000 hectares of forest – out of 7.3 million hectares lost globally, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. 1.5 million trees are felled daily due to illegal logging in Nigeria. Against this background, therefore, it becomes unsurprising that species’ populations are depleting across the country as their natural habitats are disappearing.


Also, the use of agricultural chemicals and ground tobacco powder in poisoning vultures in Nigeria has become another serious threat to their population in Nigeria. The recent event at Eke Ihe, Awgu Market in Enugu State where members of the community woke up one morning and found their market littered with carcasses of vultures has still not been fully unraveled. The traditional ruler of the community, Igwe Godwin Ekoh, confirmed that there is currently a booming trade in vultures that is incomprehensible to people of the area. The traditional ruler said that from time immemorial vultures have been regular visitors to the market after transactions to clear organic waste or leftovers. 


The consequences of the imminent extinction of vultures in Nigeria are grave. It will upset the biota with the concomitant extinction of some other species. It would lead to the spread of deadly diseases and parasites and ultimately occasion disharmony between man and nature.


In line with the foregoing, therefore, threats to our faunal species, especially vultures should be identified and tackled urgently. Wildlife laws in Nigeria should be reviewed to address current realities while being in tune with global dynamics. The laws should also be seen to be fully implemented. The issues of conservation should no longer be treated with levity as they have serious implications for human existence. The various tiers of Government must be involved in the protection of floral and faunal resources. We must learn to live in harmony with nature.


Author: Paddy Ezeala

Paddy Ezeala is a communication and development specialist. He is the South East Outreach and Communication Adviser for the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF)


The Nigerian Conservation Foundation reviewed its activities and Audited Financial Statements for 2018 during her 30th Annual General Meeting of Wednesday, 18th September 2019. The event held at the Foundation’s headquarters, Lekki Conservation Centre, Lagos and was attended by Council members, fellows, representatives of corporate organisations, members of the academia and media.


The President BoT, Chief Philip Asiodu in his address, stated: “Our advocacy programmes remain a vital tool to call the attention of government, organisations and people to actions on climate change, plastic pollution, mangrove restoration, desertification and restoring Nigeria’s forest to at least 20% by 2050”


The Chairman of National Executive Council of the Foundation, Chief Ede Dafinone in his statement said: “We initiated a campaign on Lagos coastal erosion with a lecture. The call became crucial seeing how communities along the beaches, including our pride, Lekki Conservation Centre, are being submerged.” 


On his part, the Director-General of NCF in his report said: “In our collaboration effort, we held programmes and events with International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos State Ministry of the Environment (MOE), Lagos Urban Forest and Animal Sanctuary Initiative (LUFASI), Mangrove Expo and others. The synergy has continued to deliver great results”


The Director-General stated further that awareness must be raised among residents of some communities in Ogun, Kebbi and Bauchi States on how to live in peace with elephants as the animals are roaming surrounding communities to their forest habitats and if care is not taken, lives may be lost.


Mr. Chigozie Okoro, Partner, Deloitte and Touche, who delivered the Audited Report disclosed that the Nigerian Conservation Foundation has kept proper books of account as it appears in the examination and the Foundation’s financial position, statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income are in agreement with the books of account and returns.


Earlier in the day, the “Orchids Garden” in memory of the former Executive Director of NCF, late Prof. Emmanuel Obot was relaunched. The garden feature species such as Angraecum pyriforme, Bulbophyllum filiforme, Bulbophyllum nigericum, Bulbophyllum porphyrostachys, Habenaria nigrescens, Liparis goodyeroides and Polystachya cooperi. The garden serves as a collection centre, environmental education, nature conservation and eco-tourism. 


The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), in partnership with the Lagos State Government (LASG) through its Ministry of Environment and Water Resources is hosting the 12th edition of the annual “Walk for Nature”, with the theme: ‘Plastic Pollution: The Enemy of Our Development Agenda’. 


This year’s theme has been chosen to create more awareness about the need for Lagosians to collectively tackle the menace of plastic pollution. 


The NCF/LASG Walk for Nature is an initiative aimed at raising awareness on a wide variety of contemporary environmental issues confronting everyday living in Nigeria by demonstrating the importance of nature conservation, sustainable use of natural resources and environmental education. 


This partnership with the Lagos State Government for the Walk is in its 12th year, supported by corporate organisations (Chevron Nigeria Limited, Fidelity Bank Plc, IHS Towers, as well as Fan Milk Nigeria Plc, Mobile Classroom, Nestle Waters among others) that share in the vision of a Nigeria where people prosper while living in harmony with Nature.


The 3km walk takes participants through a designated route of inner and outer Marina, with participants donning branded t-shirts bearing the theme of the event. 


Relevant government agencies will be present to provide support services – these include the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Lagos State Ambulance Service (LASAMBUS), and Lagos State Environmental Sanitation Corps (LAGESC). The Police, supported by the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Corps will equally be on ground. 


The Walk for Nature ends with a reception featuring speeches from stakeholders expounding the theme, with keynote addresses from His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Honourable Commissioner of Environment & Water Resources, NCF leadership, sponsors and community members.


Also expected at the rally are Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts & Culture, heads of faith-based organisations, conglomerates, institutions, associations and students among others


Venue: State House, Marina, Lagos State

Date:    Saturday, 19th October, 2019

Time:   7:00am