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Nature Kenya’s Rapid Response to Declining Vulture Populations

March 21 2019

#Conservation programs #Bird watching

Nature Kenya’s Rapid Response to Declining Vulture Populations

Vultures. A name sadly tainted throughout history’s books and often aligned with the vision of a dirty, bloodied creature associated with nothing but death and misfortune. Almost in stark contrast to this hollywood’ized point of view are deep-rooted cultural beliefs amongst many African communities that the consumption of vulture parts (more specifically the brains) will help provide you with the ability to see into the future. Throw in an increase in human population, the resultant drive for us as a species to supposedly ‘better’ our lives through the erection of power lines and housing complexes, and a surge in conflict between us and them (as so many like to put it), creates a mixed pot of many scenarios, none of which are good for nature’s cleanup crew.

In 2015 the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) declared seven of Africa’s vulture species to have bleeped their way onto extinction’s radar. As if to add salt to an already gaping wound, four of these species were given only ten years before their fate was sealed. Two of the largest contributing factors to these mass declines are largely due to cases of human/wildlife conflict and exploitation of body parts for the traditional medicine trade which attributes to a combined 90% of all reported fatalities in vultures. This is particularly prolific in East Africa, and especially the Masai Mara, where over the past 30 years more than half of the entire local population has been lost.


Fortunately, BirdLife International partner, Nature Kenya, has stepped up to the challenge to act as a voice for these voiceless sentinels of the skies. Through the implementation and clinical running of a rapid response vulture task force team, Nature Kenya aims to embrace the ideal of conservation through education as they tirelessly meet with land owners and local communities on a daily basis in order to change their perceptions on the use of poison and to help encourage them to pursue more humane, environmentally friendly ways in which to deal with cases of livestock death at the ‘hands’ of predators. Communities are also encouraged to keep the rapid response task force team in the loop when it comes to any suspicious behavior and reports so that they can quickly and effectively dispose of any poisoned carcasses before any deaths arise. The cleanup crew for our cleanup crew!

It is this mixture of hands-on conservation and education which is going to make the difference for East Africa’s vultures and which will hopefully see populations take on a trend of continued upward growth.


Champions of the Flyway is centered around answering the conservation call where ever it might hail from, and this year it is doing just that by tackling head-on one of our world’s most urgent conservation pleas.

About the author

Toni Geddes is a young South African naturalist and avid bird watcher who has spent most of her life growing up in the African bush. Her love for birds and their conservation is something she prides herself in as she does her level best to educate and inspire others on a daily basis throughout her travels across the globe.


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