Having identified some communities of Enugu State in Nigeria as wildlife market hotspots as well as vulture safe zones, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), with the support of South-Saharan Social Development Organisation (SSDO) recently organised a state-wide awareness and advocacy campaign to mobilise support for the conservation of vultures in Enugu State.
Aligned with the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD), the sensitization walk which held on the 29th of September 2022, had participants drawn from the Enugu State Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, and Information; Igbo Eze North Health Department; representatives from Local Government Areas; partners from various Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Students of higher institutions as well as those from Secondary schools.
The 3-mile walk commenced at SPAR Mall Complex, Enugu through the popular Okpara Square and terminated at Hotel Sylvia, Independence Layout, Enugu, where a reception was held. The reception gave an opportunity for keynote speeches from the MDAs represented, and for a press briefing.
The objective of the campaign is to drum support for the protection of Vultures, nature’s clean-up crew, while highlighting their health and economic importance to the people and environment.
The Director General of NCF, Dr. Joseph Onoja, represented by Head Communications, NCF, Mr Oladapo Soneye, in his keynote speech said “Vultures are currently endangered species. If we don’t take urgent actions in preserving what is left, while halting further reduction of their populations, we may drive them into extinction through human activities. The commonest species of vulture found in Enugu is Hooded Vulture”
He further admonished that it’s time we put a stop to killing vultures, destroying their habitat, trading in vultures and vulture parts, persecuting them, misrepresenting them as sources of bad omens or evil birds.
In September 2021, NCF conducted a field survey in a forest at Awgu LGA of Enugu State and recorded over 200 individual populations of the Hooded Vulture. The Community Forest, though not a government recognised protected area, is however protected by cultural and traditional beliefs hindering exploitation of the species. The small community has a growing population of over 25,000 people involved in subsistence farming and other artisanal activities.
Another community within the area that is a cosmopolitan centre with semi-urban population and a regional market that has one of the largest slaughterhouses in the area, was also identified. This gives opportunity for a population of Hooded Vulture between 500-1000 in the area to visit the market daily for food. This population travels from a nearby community where they refuge in a traditional shrine protected by customs and belief-based culture to the slaughterhouse to scavenge as the place is active daily cow slaughtering. NCF have gotten the commitment of the Shrine Custodian to support the protection of the vultures in the long term.
In his contribution, the Head of Programmes for SSDO, Mr Udochukwu Egwim while highlighting the health benefits of vultures revealed that the vulture is the only animal among all other species which has the capacity to feed on carcass and not emit harmful substances into the atmosphere.
IVAD helps promote the importance of vultures and the vital work carried out by conservationists to preserve these majestic birds that have come to be known as ‘natures sanitary officers’. The event is part of the project funded under the EVNewLife project with support from partners.
Aside from those mentioned earlier, the sensitization walk also featured participants from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigerian Red Cross Society, and the Media.
NCF is the foremost environmental NGO in Nigeria dedicated to nature conservation and biodiversity resources management. It has been promoting a vision of people prospering while living in harmony with nature for four decades.