International Vulture Awareness Day – 5 September 2020

Zimbabwe would like to join the rest of the world in commemorating the International Vulture Awareness Day which is meant to enhanced education and awareness about the plight of the vultures and efforts being put to conserve the birds. Zimbabwe has a rich history in the conservation of wildlife and takes pride in a culture that values biodiversity that includes animals, fish, plants and birds. Zimbabwe has over 670 bird species within varied habitats from Zambezi Valley to the Eastern Highlands and world acclaimed Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Kazuma and Chizarira National Parks, Monavale Vlei and Driefontein Grasslands and other areas.  There are 23 vulture species in the world, 11 in Africa and 6 in Zimbabwe, namely, the White-backed, Lappet-faced, Palm-nut, Cape Griffon, Hooded vultures. The other two, the Egyptian and Ruppell’s Griffon vultures are vagrants.

Whilst most bird populations are stable, vultures are under threat from poisoning and killing for medicinal purposes. Vultures (Magora/ Amanqe) as a family are one of the most endangered on the African continent and yet one cannot imagine Africa’s skies without these iconic birds. These avian scavengers are nature’s clean-up crew and in their absence proliferation of disease like anthrax, rabies and decaying carcasses are the order of the day. By removing carcasses rapidly and efficiently, vultures cleanse the environment and help protect humans, livestock and wildlife from infectious diseases.  They clean our landscapes like no other – nature’s most successful scavengers and they do all this for free. By halting the spread of disease, they are worth much more to society in saved health service costs, not to mention contributing significant revenue to the tourism sector as well. Vultures face a myriad of threats including unintentional and intentional poisoning, harvesting for belief-based use, reduced food availability and a shrinking habitat. However, not many people are aware of their predicament. Over the last 30 years, populations of seven African vulture species have fallen by 80-97%, such declines cannot be taken lightly. In the 90s the Asian sub-continent lost significant sizes of its vulture populations.  This caused feral dog populations to explode and in turn, rabies became a widespread problem. Surely as a nation and as a region, we can draw important lessons from such a situation. There is still a window of opportunity to save African vultures from totally disappearing. These birds are our common heritage, an inheritance that should be enjoyed by all generation of Zimbabweans and the world.

In Zimbabwe, all vulture species are protected under the Parks and Wildlife Act Chapter 20:14 as Specially Protected Species. They are also listed in Appendix 1 of the Convention on Migratory Species, thus vultures are recognized at the international level and they deserve to be protected.  Zimbabwe has a Vulture Action Plan that was approved in 2019 and is one of the few countries in Africa’s that has accorded this special protection to vultures and this affirms the Government’s commitment to protecting these birds that are viewed with scepticism by many sections of society.

Zimbabwe through the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority is committed to the conservation of all vulture species.  Let us all come together to mobilize resources for the conservation of the vulture species in Zimbabwe, Africa and the whole world.

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