BONN (IDN) – Population declines of 95 percent in Africa and Asia in recent decades, are threatening most vulture species in Africa, Asia and Europe with extinction. With this in view, an overarching international Action Plan applicable throughout the ranges of all species is being developed at an expert meeting convened by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) from February 16 to 19 in Toledo, Spain.
The plan aims to prevent the further decline of vultures – nature’s primary scavengers – providing indispensable ecological services as carrion feeders and disposers of disease-carrying carcasses.
“Populations of vultures have plummeted across the world as a result of poisoning, habitat loss, reduced food availability, electrocution and collision with power lines”, said CMS Executive Secretary Bradnee Chambers. CMS is an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“This action plan covers 15 vulture species and extends across three continents. It aims to halt further decline and thus generate significant economic and human health benefits,” Bradnee added.
A single international action plan covering multiple species that occur in more than 120 countries is a new approach, which will complement and build upon existing conservation initiatives. This umbrella strategy for scavengers facing the same threats and using the same habitats is required to promote a major step-change in the conservation efforts for this spectacular group of birds.
According to CMS, the first draft of the Action Plan includes the most up-to-date population status reports of the species and a detailed analysis of the threats that are affecting these important birds.
In India, vultures are poisoned by diclofenac used for veterinary purposes, while in Africa, the scavengers are intentionally targeted by poachers to cover up their activities so the authorities are not alerted to the location of their crimes. Some birds are also poisoned for their body parts to be used in witchcraft. The Action Plan includes solutions to address the most imminent threats.
Another objective is to reduce vulture mortality caused by electrocutions at power poles and collisions with power infrastructure, including wind farms. Tackling wildlife crime and illegal trade in vulture parts, it is hoped, would help restore populations, particularly in Africa. Restricting, and in some cases prohibiting, the use of toxic chemicals including certain pharmaceutical drugs should prevent their unintentional death. Strong legislation and law enforcement are necessary to implement these measures.
This Multi-species Action Plan has been developed in cooperation with experts in different regions to understand the differing threats and to engage people in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
A final version of the Action Plan will be submitted to the 12th Meeting of the Conference to the Parties to CMS to be held from October 23 to 28 in Manila for adoption. [IDN-InDepthNews – 16 February 2017]
Photo: Bearded vulture. Credit: A. Kovacz
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