Vultures: The Unseen Beauty
Vulture! The sound of this name means different thing to different people. To some it means ugly, to some it means a source of “traditional power/ medicine”, and yet to others, it means danger. Fortunately, to some others like us at LUFASI it means beauty, protector, health, stunning and much more.
Vultures are species of birds that have vital significance to our ecosystem. Little wonder, they are called environmental cleanup crew. These birds help to clean up the environment by eating carrion, which prevents the spread of diseases from rotting carcasses. Therefore, vultures mop up the diseases that could affect other birds and wildlife, including humans, soil and waterways as well, contaminating crops and water sources with dangerous bacteria and infections.
With a species diversity of about 23 Vultures, it is classed into two; the old world Vultures and the new
worldVultures, among which are 5 vulnerable species (decreasing population) and 9 critically endangered species (in critical danger of extinction if conservation is not implemented). The vulnerable and critically endangered status are caused by humans, who have posed as threats to these fascinating birds as they are been targeted for their heads and other vital parts, which are used widely for traditional medicines. Recently, in Mbashene community in southern Mozambique, 87 vultures where found dead, due to the poisoning of an Elephant carcass they fed on. The reason, according to Vultures Conservation Foundation was, “presumably to extract body parts for traditional medicine.” Other factors contributing to the decline of vultures are development and human expansion threatening their habitats and population including deliberate targeting by poachers to avoid alerting authorities to illegally killed big game carcasses.
Perhaps, if we are better informed about the indispensable role of vultures in our environment, we can work together to ensure the challenges faced by these creatures are brought to the barest minimum to save them from possible extinction. At the Lekki Urban Forest Animals Sanctuary Initiatives (LUFASI), we have conserved 20 hectares of forestland containing some of the last remaining populations of the highly endangered Ekki “Iron wood” tree –
Lophira alata and the internationally significant hooded vulture – Necrosyrtes monachus. In addition, The Education Unit organises interactive Climate Change Workshop (CCW), which uses video, colourful booklets with worksheets, critical – thinking exercises and a fun tour of the nature park to inform students and other visitors of the critical challenges facing our earth’s climate and in particular emphasise the critical role vultures play for the health of humans and environmental sustainability.