Vultures are often overlooked as lowly scavengers. However, they are a key component to maintaining healthy ecosystems. Because of their role as nature’s garbage disposers, vultures are able to keep the environment clean and free of contagious diseases. These birds have an extremely corrosive stomach acid that allows them to consume rotting animal corpses. These scavenged leftovers are often infected with anthrax, botulinum toxins, rabies, and hog cholera that would otherwise kill other scavengers. By ridding the ground of dead animals, vultures prevent diseases from spreading to humans and animals.
Species in Ghana
Eight (8) species have been recorded in Ghana. The resident species are the Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) CR, White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) CR, African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) and Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) LC. The vagrant or wandering species recorded in Ghana are the Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) VU, Ruppell’s Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) E, Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) LC and the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) CR.
The most commonly sighted species in Ghana, the Hooded Vulture, is critically endangered alongside the White-Headed Vulture and the wandering Egyptian vulture according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, all species are wholly protected in Ghana. The hunting, capturing or destroying of vultures is absolutely prohibited at all time. (L.I. 685-WILDLIFE CONSERVATION REGULATION, 1971).
HOODED VULTURE PALM-NUT VULTURE WHITE-HEADED VULTURE
The relationship between humans and vultures is volatile. Some farmers intentionally kill these scavengers. Farmers sometimes lace their livestock carcasses with poison intended to kill the scavengers which feed off of it. Other human-vulture conflicts may come from cultural practices and beliefs. Cultures across the globe use wild animals for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Some practices surrounding these birds include ceremonies where their bones are used. Talons are used to treat fevers and creating medicines, to give people metaphysical powers. Vultures are lured to poisoned meat that is left out by these groups of people.
Threats to vultures
The major threats to vultures include non-target poisoning, capture for traditional medicine and bush meat. Declines have also been attributed to land conversion through development and improvements to abattoir hygiene and rubbish disposal. In many cultures around the world, particularly in Western societies, vultures are viewed with disdain. Commonly, people tend to look down on these birds as dirty, ugly, and unhygienic, failing to recognize their importance. People of other cultures, however, hold the vulture in high regard.
For the reason that vultures attract attention to illegal poaching activities, they have become the number one enemy of poachers. A common practice of many poachers is to poison the carcasses left behind after removing essential parts of their kills. The poachers do this to kill off the vultures so that they can continue their illegal work undetected. In order to save the vulture species from extinction and protect the complex ecosystems from becoming overrun with carrion and disease, the current number of vulture deaths must be reduced.
Around the world, but mainly focused in Asia and Africa, charitable organizations are working with local governments to implement conservation plans.
All species are wholly protected in Ghana. The hunting, capturing, or destroying of vultures is prohibited at all times. (L.I. 685-WILDLIFE CONSERVATION REGULATION, 1971). It is the responsibility of every Ghanaian to help the Wildlife Division and other Stakeholders to protect vultures. To put this into perspective, West Africa has lost 90% of its White-backed Vultures and the population of the rest is declining at a faster rate. You can report to the Police or the Wildlife Division of any incidence of vulture capturing, poisoning or habitat destruction or you can email PHILAGBAVOR@GMAIL.COM
WILDLIFE UNIT, RMSC.