The birding world’s most thrilling race, the Champions of the Flyway, is currently underway in southern Israel as Team VCF take part helping to raise funds to protect and save Africa’s vultures.
Champions of the Flyway
The race began at midnight last night as teams from around the world head off around Eilat at the southern tip of Israel at the Red Sea in a a ‘race’ to spot the highest number of birds within a 24 hour period. Coinciding with the annual spring migration where migratory birds stopover to and from their northern breeding grounds. The Eilat Mountains create a natural bottleneck for millions birds with nearly two hundred species including two dozen species of raptors including the migratory Egyptian Vulture, waders and passerines migrating northwards creating one of nature’s most spectacular sights.
Team VCF has been led by Hans Pohlman, who sits on our Management Board and has been coordinating efforts to support the organisers, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), to raise awareness and funds for the beneficiaries of this year’s fundrasing, Nature Kenya for vulture conservation work in east Africa.
Over the last four weeks we have been running #GoVultures a campaign on Twitter and Facebook that asked people to send their support for some of the world’s most endangered vultures.
We have been overwhelmed by the support from across the globe from the icy steppes of Mongolia to sunny California to Iceland to India, Australia, China and even Antarctica. The response has been genuinely phenomenal and on behalf of Team VCF, we would like to thank everyone for their support for #GoVultures and helping raise funds for projects in east Africa such as a rapid response anti-poisoning unit.
The vulture crisis in Africa
Across Africa there are 11 vulture species: six of which are found only on the continent, whilst the rest occur elsewhere in Eurasia. Vultures are being electrocuted by power lines or crushed by wind turbines, their body parts used in traditional medicine and are killed by eating pesticide-laced carcasses intended for lions and other predators.
Since the 1980s the vulture numbers have dropped 62 percent during, with the decline much larger, in West Africa have declined by 95 percent outside protected areas and over 50 percent of vultures species of the genus Gyps have disappeared from one of the most important vulture ecosystems in East Africa, in the Masai Mara. Seven of these vultures are on the edge of extinction - all but the Bearded Vultures – have declined by more than 80 percent. The worst off are the White-Headed and Rüppell's Vultures, which have declined by 96 and 97 percent, respectively.
Vulture conservation works
Whilst the crisis for African vulture populations may seem a huge challenge to resolve, one of the contributions for our #GoVulture campaign illustrated with passion and dedication, resources and time we can save and protect vultures. Michel Terrasse, who sits on our Advisory Board sent this message of support, the most inspiring and humbling of all the messages we recieved.
Michel Terrasse has been working in vulture conservation for over 60 years and has been at the forefront of returning vultures the skies of France. His work has inspired others to undertake conservation projects that have seen once tiny populations of vultures across the continent make a remarkable comeback.