Petition calls for action following the largest incident of vulture killings in the world 


A coalition of international conservation organizations has today launched an online petition dubbed #StopTheKillings, calling for action to address the unprecedented mass killings of vultures in Guinea-Bissau through poisoning. These killings, the largest incident of mass vulture deaths in the world, are a big blow to conservation efforts to save Africa’s vultures. 


More than 2000 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 70-97% 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. Widespread killing of vultures in Guinea-Bissau through poisoning – the leading cause of vulture mortality in Africa, threatens to wipe out stronghold populations of these Critically Endangered birds. 


The #StopTheKillings petition launched by BirdLife International, Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), The IUCN Vulture Specialist Group, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), The Peregrine Fund and The Organization for the Defence and Development of Wetlands in Guinea-Bissau (ODZH) is calling on the Guinea-Bissau government, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the global community to take urgent action to halt these mass killings 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. We are urging the Guinea-Bissau government to address these mass killings urgently to safeguard Guinea-Bissau’s vulture populations”, notes Francisco Gomes Wambar, Executive Director of the Organisation for the Defence and Development of Wetlands in Guinea-Bissau (ODZH). 


The petition is also calling on the global community to support interventions aimed at halting the persecution of vultures in Guinea-Bissau and across Africa. 


“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”, notes Professor Carlos Lopes, retired UN Under- Secretary-General and current Professor at the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town. 


“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 organizations. Halting the killings and urgently putting in place measures to protect vultures should be a priority”, says Rebecca Garbett, Vulture Conservation Manager at BirdLife International.


The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), BirdLife partner in Nigeria lends its support to the petition launched today in furtherance of its “save vulture” campaign project commenced in 2017. This awareness campaign has been done in major cities such as Lagos, Abuja etc, and also taken to the vulture hotspots states such Kano, Sokoto, Taraba, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Enugu, Yobe and Oyo. 


The vulture conservation campaign is on-going in Nigeria. 


Sign the #StopTheKillings petition HERE





Actor and comedian, Kunle Idowu (popularly known as Frank Donga), health coach and co-host of the popular morning show on TVC, Mariam Longe and musician, Tito Da Fire were unveiled as ambassadors for the Nigerian Conservation Foundation Save the Vulture Campaign.


Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF in his welcome address, acknowledged the Ambassadors for the willingness and enthusiasm shown in partnering with the Foundation. He revealed that humans are fighting nature and nature is fighting back. 


According to him, “The fight could be suicidal because nature will win. The fight against nature is a fight against species, vultures being one”. 


He went further to debunk myths surrounding the vultures and urged all to come together to save the remaining vulture species from going into extinction. 


Dr. Joseph Onoja, Director Technical Program, in his presentation showed that six out of eleven vulture species in Africa are on the brink of extinction. 


He said, “Market surveys revealed that the major cause of vulture decline in Nigeria is the use for traditional medicine. Other causes are poisoning, extraction of eggs from nests; habitat degradation from indiscriminate logging which reduces nest sites for vultures; poor perception of vultures as harbinger of ill will leading to direct persecution by locals”. 


Dr Onoja further explained that the Save the Vulture Project has pioneered efforts in tackling illegal wildlife trade in Nigeria. However, a more holistic intervention that will address the knowledge gap among the public on the socio-economic and ecological role of vulture in the society is needed. Hence, the unveiling of the ambassadors to help propagate the message and deepen the conversation. 


Save Vulture Project is funded by European Union and; United States Fish and Wildlife Service. 


The event took place on Thursday, 3rd December, 2020 at the Lekki Conservation Centre and was attended by 30 participants in strict compliance with Covid-19 protocols while others joined through virtual platforms.