Trade on wildlife products is a major driver of biodiversity loss worldwide. There are several reasons behind the trade of wildlife, one of them being the trade of wildlife products for traditional medicine.
Vulture parts are traded for use in traditional medicine in West and southern Africa, and this has been suggested as a possible cause of decline of vultures in those regions. However, few quantitative assessments of traditional medicine impacts on wildlife have been published – so a paper attempting a first quantification of the situation in Africa with bird parts used in traditional medicine is a very welcome element!
Vultures are particularly targeted in some regions of Africa for the traditional medicine trade, as their incredible foraging strategy makes people think that they see extremely well, and therefore buy parts of vultures to “see into the future”, or get clairvoyant powers.
Indeed, the paper confirms that one of the bird species most common in markets across the continent is the hooded vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus), and that vultures in general are particularly targeted by selective harvesting and should be prioritized for conservation action. You can download this article below.
Recently a Nigerian student (Stephen Awoyemi) has also published his MPhil thesis, with a study done in the markets of Nigeria and Sierra Leone in June 2014. In this research, the ethnic and religious profile of the wildlife traders is discussed, and some valuable data presented on price and turn-over of vulture parts. This study concluded that demand for vultures is strong in the southwest of Nigeria, while relatively low in Sierra Leone, and that the problem of trade in vulture parts has a cultural and theological dimension. You can download his thesis below.