We already knew that the situation with vultures in Africa was dire - a paper published last June showed that six out of eight African vulture species have declined so much that they now qualify as Critically Endangered (see here). Now a new paper published last week in the scientific journal Oryx shows that the trade in vulture parts for bushmeat and fetish (sometimes also called “traditional” medicine) is driving vulture (and other raptors) declines in West and Central Africa.
Buij et al. have shown that 27% of 2,646 raptor carcasses they could identify on sale in markets in 12 countries in West and Central Africa were threatened or near threatened species. Most of raptors were traded in Nigeria (73%) and in Benin (21%), making these countries the regional hotspots for this largely illicit trade.
Raptor parts are sold as meat or for indigenous medicine to cure physical ailments such as migraines and epilepsy, or for clairvoyance. The trade is so intensive that Nigeria has hardly any vultures left, so poachers and traders are increasingly crossing international borders to collect carcasses.
The study indicates that scavenging species (like vultures, Black Kites and Marsh Harriers) are more commonly traded than their non-scavenging counterparts, and the authors suggest this may be linked to the widespread use of poison to kill scavenging raptors for the trade.
The hardest hit species were Hooded Vultures and Black Kites, which together represented 41% of all raptors traded. However, the trade represented a particularly sizeable proportion of the remaining regional populations of rare and declining large vultures.
This new paper adds information on the threats facing African vultures, which are being extirpated from the face of the continent.
You can download the paper below.