Vultures in Nigeria: The Imperative of a Better Image and Protection

Friday, 06 September 2019 10:30

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 unravelled. 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 is 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)

 

Increase in Sea Level will Submerge Coastal Communities

Monday, 02 September 2019 15:26

Chief Ede Dafinone, the Chairman, National Executive Council of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) stated that climate change is causing an increase in sea level which is causing coastal communities in Nigeria to be submerged.

 

He declared this at the 6th Lagos Public Relations Stakeholders’ Conference organised by Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Lagos Chapter with the theme “Conversations to Promote Environmental Sustainability in Nigeria.” The event held at Agip Recital Hall, Muson Centre, Onikan Lagos on Thursday, 29th August 2019.

 

In his speech, Dafinone who chaired the conference spoke about the forest fire catastrophe in the Amazon and the implication on climate change which could lead to a rise in the sea level thereby causing coastal communities to become flooded. He cited other examples of Bar Beach and Alfa Beach in Lagos, warning that: “the developments currently at the Bar Beach may be submerged if actions are not taken to mitigate the effect of coastal erosion”

 

He equally informed that organisations are moving from being just corporate socially responsible to being corporate socially environment responsible.” 

 

Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State, who was represented by the Commissioner of Information and Strategy, Mr. Gbenga Omotoso tasked manufacturers to cooperate with the State Government on the use of recyclable and biodegradable materials in product packaging. He said: “we will continue to engage the cooperation of manufacturers in the production or usage of recyclable or biodegradable materials.” 

 

He called on all stakeholders to support strategies and programmes aimed at ensuring environmental sustainability for the Lagos ‘Smart City’ initiative.

 

Mr. Segun McMedal, Chairman of NIPR Lagos State Chapter in his opening remark, raised concerns about our environment becoming unsuitable for businesses due to human activities. He said: “at a time that the world is plagued with threats of environmental degradation, climate change and its attendant consequences, there is the need for concerted efforts to check human activities that are threatening our existence.”

 

Present at the event were Engr. Aliyu Aziz, Director General, National Identity Management Commission (NIMC); Dr. (Mrs.) Jumoke Kassim, CEO, Naturescape Consulting; Dr. Austin Tam-George, former Commissioner for Information, Rivers State; Dr. Ubon Essien Nsiabia, Asst. Director, Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA); Mr. Yomi Badejo Okusanya, President, Association of Public Relations in Africa (APRA); Mrs. Nkechi Alli-Balogun, NIPR Council Member, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, Chief Press Secretary to the Lagos State Governor among others.

 

Nigeria to Tackle Natural Disasters and Climate Change Challenges

Monday, 02 September 2019 07:01

 

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), the Civil Society Network for the Lake Chad Basin (North-East Nigeria), the Humanitarian Forum, UK with the support of the International Islamic Charity Organisation (IICO) call on Nigerians to rise to the challenge of natural disaster and climate change in the country as it is an existential issue affecting everyone, especially in North-East Nigeria.

 

This call was made at the opening ceremony of a 2-day workshop held in Abuja on 26th & 27th August, 2019 with the theme “Resilience Agenda: Natural Disasters and Climate Change – How are we managing risks and crises differently in North-East Nigeria?”

 

Twenty-one Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from the six states in North-East Nigeria, representatives of Government agencies, UN agencies, international NGOs, security agencies and the media gathered at the workshop to take stock of how climate change is being addressed as a risk factor for disasters, review what adaptation measures are being implemented, formulate practical steps to overcome challenges and make a difference to people affected by crisis.

 

The workshop is also expected to identify concrete areas in which NCF and other groups could collaborate to address Disaster Risk Reduction and build the resilience of communities in the zone.

 

The outcome of the workshop will feed into discussions at the World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF) 2019. WHAF is a project that aims to encourage dialogue and actions through partnership and collaboration among humanitarian actors from the global North and South. 

 

Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, Director General of NCF in his remark stated that “Climate change and environmental degradation are at the root of the humanitarian crises in the North-East, such as shrinking of the Lake Chad, drought and desertification, deforestation and land degradation. The consequences of the crises weigh heavily on climate change and natural resources in the region.”

 

Dr. Hany El-Banna, President of the Humanitarian Forum, UK remarked that “For us to achieve substantive success in the fight against natural disaster and climate change, we must embrace progress through partnership.”

 

On his part, Ambassador Shehu Ahmed, President of Civil Society Network for the Lake Chad Basin emphasised that the Federal Government, International organisations and corporate citizens should rise to help now. He revealed that disasters and climate change impact livelihoods and economic development with people living in poor and developing countries bearing the highest risk; impacts of disasters and climate change set back and undermine development efforts and; climate change is causing an increase in frequency and intensity of certain weather-related disaster events. He concluded that these are some of the reasons we should take action immediately.

 

Alhaji Abdulwasea Adesina, Country Director of IICO appealed to the participants not to end the discussion at the workshop but proceed to chart SMART path to implement the proposals from different quarters.