From Richard Owusu-Akyaw, Kumasi .
The Ghana Wildlife Society (GWS) has expressed worry about the dwindling population of vultures in Ghana, attributing it to trade in vulture parts for traditional medicine and magical powers (juju).
It has also revealed poisoning by poachers for use as bait during hunting, destruction of their roosting and nesting sites through vegetation removal, collision with energy infrastructure such as large pylons and wind turbines, and the inappropriate disposal of pharmaceutical drugs such as diclofenac.
A statement issued by the GWS, under the theme “Save vultures, Save our garbage collectors”, to observe the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) 2018 in Ghana, expressed concern about the menace.
The International Vulture Awareness Day celebration aims to highlight the importance of vultures, create awareness on the plight they face, and garner support for their conservation. The IVAD was created through cooperative efforts of the Birds of Prey Programme, South Africa, and the Hawk Conservancy Trust, England.
Among the species of vultures existing, the most common in Ghana include the Hooded
(Necrocystes monachus), White-backed (Gyps africanus), White-headed (Trigonoceps
occipitalis), Rüppell’s (Gyps rueppelli) and Egyptian (Neophron percnopterus) vultures.
The global response to the vulture crisis was the International Vulture Multi-species Action Plan, developed under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
The plan aims at preventing further declines by suggestion of actions to address imminent threats. The GWS appealed to the Ministries of Health, Environment, Energy, Food and Agriculture, Works and Housing and other relevant agencies to consider the plight of vultures in their strategies and plans to help recover the population of vultures in Ghana.
The statement said: “Civil society and pro-conservation groups need to join the Ghana Wildlife Society’s efforts to sensitise the public on the need for conservation of vultures,” and called for the use of robust scientific research and technologies in monitoring vulture populations.
The GWS also called on the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, and the Ghana government, to commit the needed financial and human resources towards the implementation of the International Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan in Ghana.
Announcing the importance of vultures in Ghana, the release noted: “Vultures play significant ecological and economic roles in our environment. They act as nature’s garbage collectors by cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste found in the environment.”
It continued that vultures also lessen the number of other scavengers that gather around carcasses, and serve as important disease reservoirs, adding that, without them, we are likely to face outbreaks of diseases like cholera, rabies, botulism etc., which are mainly transmitted from wild and domestic animals.
It noted that without vultures, “decomposing dead and decaying matter” will litter our environment and pose high risks to public health.