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Lecture On The”Last Nigeria Vulture: The Consequence For Human
Health And The Economy” By The Honourable Minister Of Environment,
Amina J. Mohammed Ofr, As The Guest Lecturer For The 15th Edition Of
S.L Edu Memorial Lecture At Ijewere Hall, Banker’s House, Lagos On 19th
January, 2016.
It gives me great pleasure to be present at the 15th edition of Chief S.L .Edu
Memorial lecture.
I consider this occasion a privilege to deliver a lecture in memory of a man
who saw the importance of the Conservation of our precious Natural
Resources as far back as 1980, and established a Conservation Foundation
whose vision was to be a “Nigeria Where People Prosper while living in
harmony with nature”. This vision drives its mission to preserve the full
range of Nigeria’s biodiversity which includes species, ecosystems and
genetic biodiversity thus promoting the sustainable use of Natural Resources
for the benefit of present and future generations.
Ecosystems are essential to human life, providing us with countless and
invaluable services and opportunities. Our survival as humans depends on
sustainable Ecosystems which provide us with food, water and clean air.
Fundamentally, Ecosystems are essential for survival, the basis for
sustainable development and creating economic opportunity.
In Nigeria, today we can acknowledge the true importance of our
Ecosystems - the wetlands, forests, rivers, mangrove swamps and the part
they play regarding our sustainable development. We have witnessed
firsthand the implication of not fully paying attention to our Ecosystems
and putting planet, people and prosperity first. This has resulted in the
loss of livelihoods, insecurity, exacerbated poverty, impacted health and
changed the landscapes from forests to deserts, from mangroves to
wasteland, from green cities to choked communities.
It is important to note that every part of our ecosystem is intertwined and
interdependent. This is part of the reason we are here today as we
deliberate on one small undervalued asset in our environment.
, “the Vulture” People may be wondering why Vultures? What’s so
important about an ugly, scary, dirty bird?
Importance of Vultures to Nature
Well…. Perhaps the case of judging a book by its cover! Vultures are often
misunderstood because they are seen as scavengers and often associated
with death. It often starts from childhood when cartoons depict them as
hovering and menacing or parents use them to scare children into good
behavior. So, from a young age they are etched in our minds as something
to do away with; would not be missed; we would be better off.
However, this is very far from the truth. Vultures play a very crucial role
in maintaining a healthy environment and the wellbeing of humans.
Vultures do not hunt live prey, but act as scavengers, feeding on the
carcasses of dead animals. The acid in their stomachs is corrosive,
facilitating the digestion of decomposing carcasses infected with diseases
such as anthrax, cholera, botelinum toxin and rabies that would be lethal
to other scavengers and people.
Vultures are important indicators of poached activity as they are attracted
to large carcasses such as those of poached elephants and rhinos, hence
they are victims of poachers.
Given their large range sizes and their dependence on high wildlife
density, Vultures indicate ecosystem health. They provide essential
ecosystem services to society in both urban and natural areas globally.
They are nature’s most effective garbage disposal system often referenced
as ‘Nature’s clean up crew’.
It is estimated that a single Vulture provides a scavenging benefit worth
around US dollars 11, 600 per year (AMCEN, 2016). For instance, Avian
scavengers are capable of removing a thousand tons of carcasses per year.
In Spain alone, Avian scavengers are capable of removing 9.9 thousand
tons of carcasses per year.
Vultures have played important roles in several human burial practices
around the world. In deserts, or areas with rocky soils or insufficient fuel
for cremation, disposal of human remains by Vultures may be the best and
cleanest option.
Without Vultures to efficiently remove large amounts of decayed meat,
both air and ground water would show increased contamination. Hence
Vultures are for want of a better word often referred to as our 'sanitation
The link between vultures and human health and their ecological and
economic role (e.g. through eco-tourism), conservation of African vultures
will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development
Goals, especially Goals 2, 12, and 151 and The Aichi Biodiversity Targets
1,2,3,4,7,12 and 142.
Current status of a human asset in Nigeria:
Many people enjoy watching the seemingly effortless flight of vultures.
They occur all over the world. There are eleven species of Vulture in Africa
and seven of these are on the edge of extinction. Four (4) are now on the
critically endangered list while another three (3) are endangered.
The threat facing Vultures are diverse and challenging. Africa continues to
have the highest global rate of primary forest loss (FAO, 2010). Therefore,
habitat loss degradation poses some levels of threat to Vultures. About
80% of original forest has been converted to agricultural land in West
Africa with an estimated loss of ten (10) ha of forest in the Twentieth
Century (Norris et al. 2015). In Nigeria as an example, Nigeria’s percentage
forest cover is less than 5% as against the FAO recommended 25% of total
area and we continue to lose trees at an alarming rate.
In Nigeria there were formerly six (6) species of Vultures known as;
Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes
(Trigonoceps occipitalis), Ruppell’s griffoo (Gyps rueppellii) and Palm-nut
Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). Out of these, five (5) species are close to
extinction in some parts of the country; the only two thriving species
are Hooded and Palm-nut Vultures and they are being threatened by loss
of habitat and indiscriminate hunting. Some of the challenges being faced
by the Vulture include;
 Populations that have declined at devastating rates of between 70%
and 97% (92% or worse in 5 species) over a period of three
 Vultures that are being hunted and killed as a result of targeted
poisoning of carnivores using baited carcasses often in response to
predation of livestock and is one of the leading causes of vulture
deaths in East and Southern Africa.
 Elephant or Rhino poachers who deliberately poison vultures,
which draw attention to poaching activities, or vultures may ingest
poison used to kill the elephants.
 Vultures often suffer mortality caused by collision with or
electrocution by power generation and transmission infrastructure
such as power lines and wind turbines.
 Vultures are also used as traditional medicine. The feathers and
head are used for ritualistic purposes and export to countries
around the globe
 Vultures are also delicacy to some communities. They often serve as
alternative to chicken in some parts of Nigeria.
 Population increase: - Nigeria’s population has more than doubled
in the last 50years. This has caused land to become stressed with
habitat under threat further exacerbating the future of birdlife.
Current Efforts in Nigeria
I believe this room is full of dedicated, concerned and passionate
people in conservation. Therefore, improved Partnerships which
cut across public and private sector will be key to putting a stop to
making our Vultures history.
Partnerships between the Federal Ministry of Environment and the
International and National NGOs, notably Nigerian Conservation
Foundation (NCF), Birdlife International and the Royal Society for
Protection of Birds (RSPB) to ensure that the Vulture Species are
conserved and Stakeholders are fully sensitized and engaged in the
preservation of these eco-assets has been rewarding. We continue to seek
increased collaboration.
Joint working with State Governments and supporting the preservation
and repopulation of Vultures is important as well as encouraging States
and Local Governments to own the conservation agenda by underscoring
the economic and health gains is vital to achieving our goal.
Private sector investment in Vultures should not be overlooked. Although
this seems like an unlikely business proposition, investing in the
conservation of this bird and other endangered species will support a
better ecosystem and provide new economic opportunities in eco-tourism.
Strengthening Policy and Regulatory instruments will also be
important in persevering our Vultures.
The newly signed National Domesticated Reviewed Endangered
Species Act, (CITES3) on the 30th of December 2016 by the President
is a clear example of government’s commitment to protecting endangered
species. Hooded vulture is listed in schedule II.
In addition to this strengthening regulatory frameworks, Nigeria is
signatory to a few Conventions.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
 the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – Nigeria is an active
member of the African –Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA).
CMS recognizes the threat and conservation challenges of Africa
Eurasian- Migratory Landbirds across the fly-way and has therefore
adopted the Africa Eurasian- Migratory Landbirds Action Plan
The AEMLAP is aimed at improving the conservation status of
migratory Landbirds through synergetic action that will benefits
migrant Landbirds, local communities, sustainable agriculture, the
economic and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
In order to strengthen (AEMLAP) under the leadership of my
Ministry, Nigeria National Committee on Migratory Landbirds has
been established comprising representatives of Federal Ministry of
Agriculture, Leventis Ornithological Research Institution, National
Parks Service and Nigeria Conservation Foundation.
This Committee is a pioneer initiative that puts Nigeria at fore front
of Land-bird conservation in Africa. Hence, my Ministry successfully
hosted International Regional Workshop in November 2016 to
address the issue of land use change and habitat degradation in
West Africa to explore the opportunity to use migratory land-birds
as an indicator of such change.
 We are also part of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD),
International importance and MOU Migratory Raptors (Birds of
Prey) and;
 A Member of United Nations Forum on forests, the highest UN Policy
body on Sustainable Forest Management. Most of the programs and
policies are being domesticated in the Country since 2007.
Call to Action
Internationally, there are a number of Call to Action which signify the
awakening to the value and plight of the Vulture.
The 2016 United Nations Environment Assembly led to the
Implementation of a new resolution on wildlife crime and trade. This
means that African Governments can now act to prevent the poisoning of
The African Union has also identified several actions that would be
taken by governments:
 Raising awareness of the plight of vultures, their ecological
importance and valuable ecosystem services and solutions
proposed for African vulture conservation at the highest
political levels both nationally and regionally
 Developing and implementing the Multi-Species Action Plan for
African-Eurasian Vultures as mandated by the Convention on
Migratory Species (CMS) Resolution 11.14.
Implementing the CMS preventing poisoning guidelines which call
a. Increased grassroots educational initiatives to develop
and disseminate good practice for problem animal
control and enforcement.
b. Developing and enforcing appropriate legislation to
control, ban or restrict the sale, storage, distribution, use
and disposal of toxic chemicals used in the indiscriminate
killing of wildlife.
c. Introducing and enforcing penalties on those found
guilty of wildlife poisoning events that reflect the serious
nature of the crime and act as sufficient deterrent to
prevent the perpetration of such acts in future.
d. Training and supporting conservation staff to act swiftly
and minimize the damage caused by poisoning.
e. Enhancing analytical capacity and increasing sampling,
testing, monitoring and reporting efforts of relevant
institutions across the region.
 Encouraging
International collaboration to address threats to vultures. This
collaboration should target players in agrochemical and
livestock sectors regarding poison baits, energy sectors
regarding energy generation and transmission and health
sectors regarding disease transmission and traditional
medicine, and trade in vulture parts.
In Conclusion:
“I would like to appreciate the existing collaboration between NCF and my
Ministry and emphasize our resolve intention to strengthen our
collaboration as we forge ahead to pursue the conservation of our Nation
Natural Resources with the aim of improving the quality of human life both
in the present and the future.
i. To raise awareness especially in our schools (catching
them young) and improve the status of Vultures.
ii. Raise awareness of the potential negative human health
impacts from continued decline in African Vultures and
iii. The potential huge social and economic costs association
with African Vulture decline.
Distinguished Guests, our dear Children, Gentlemen of the Press, Ladies and
Gentlemen. I wish to stress that our role as government is mainly catalytic,
our programs in the Ministry constitute the framework for a dynamic,
evolving process for co-operation among stakeholders. These programs are
catalysts for involvement of entire Societies and point of reference for all
agents involved in the process of conservation of nature, its resources and
ensuring environmentally sustainable development in the country.
On our part, I wish to re-iterate our commitment to conservation issues and
my Ministry will not relent her efforts as we call on all Stakeholders to
understand that it is truly a collective responsibility.
Thank you for listening.
Birdlife International Concept for Green Room Event on Healthy Vultures,
Healthy People (UNEA 2, May 2016).
Outputs and Outcomes of Green Room Event on Healthy Vultures, Healthy
People (UNEA 2, May2016).
Motivational note to the Africa Union for Vulture Conservation
List of Resolutions at UNEA -2 (