International Vulture Awareness Day News
Botswana Conservation NGOs, government and business sector come together to celebrate the International Vulture Awareness Day
BirdLife Botswana in conjunction with other conservation organisations in Botswana celebrated the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) on the 7th September at the capital city Gaborone. The event started with a march from the venue Gaborone Secondary School Grounds passing in front of the City Council and Museum, past the State House, returning through the Main Mall back to the venue. The International Vulture Awareness Day has been commemorated before in Botswana by different organisation, independently. However, this year, Non-governmental conservation organisations (such as BirdLife Botswana, Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Kalahari Conservation Society, Kalahari Research and Conservation, Mokolodi Nature Reserve, Raptors Botswana), the Department of Wildlife and National Parks, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, chose to jointly commemorate this day and lift a red flag on issues surrounding our vulture populations in Botswana. The IVAD is commemorated each year internationally on the first Saturday of September and is aimed at publicising the conservation of vultures to a wider audience and to highlight the importance of vulture conservation. Recently, (June 2019) a massive total of 537 vultures and two tawny eagles were found dead in northeast Botswana adding up to a devastating statistics of poisoned vultures report.
Morning march by the participants
The commemoration themed Vultures: Nature’s Solution for a Clean Environment was attended by atleast about 240 people. The event was graced by the Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) from the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation and Tourism (MENT) Mr Felix Monggae, the permanent secretary from the Ministry of Agriculture who gave the keynote address and the closing remarks respectively. The DPS mentioned that the threats to vultures are both severe and challenging to address, and demand for a change in conservation action supported by all stakeholders, including many who have so far not recognised the importance of vultures. He further said that lessons learned and good practice can be applied more widely but new and creative solutions need to be found to address the clear and present danger that threatens to drive this spectacular group of birds to extinction. The DPS emphasised that many stakeholders concerned with vulture conservation must work together, and not rest until all vulture species are safe from their threat. He further reflected on the status of vultures in Botswana by mentioning that there are only five vulture species in Botswana and three are listed as critically endangered and two as endangered. Recent studies have reported a population declined of 79% for Hooded Vulture, 78% for White-Headed Vulture, 61% for Lappet-Faced Vulture and 33% of White-Backed Vulture between 1995 and 2016. An assessment of White-Backed Vulture nesting numbers between 2007 and 2017 in northern Botswana showed a decline of 53%. This is indeed a cause for concern! Now reflect on the recent record loss and what its influence is to these trends.
Deputy Permanent Secretary from MENT Mr Felix Monggae giving the keynote address
There were atleast 65 school children who were performing different entertainment acts such as drama, poems and marimba to the audience. Of noteworthy, the event pooled several donations from the business sector outside the conservation segment to provide various support. This effort has shown positive results in raising the profile for the need to conserve the vultures in Botswana. The donations were collected from Mr. Veg (fruits and vegetables retailer), Pie City, and Sefalana Cash and Carry who provided snacks, (pies, apples, peanuts, drinks and water) for the day. There was support from Boitekanelo Health Institute tertiary education and Botswana Red Cross Society with first aid ambulance. The Botswana Police service provided escort during the march. Five representative players from the Botswana National rugby team which is called the Vultures also attended the event wearing their team gear. There was a live White Backed Vulture brought for public viewing.
BirdLife Botswana member Mogoditshane Primary School children posing for the photo after the commemoration
Tertiary student performing drama for the audience
A live vulture brought for public view at the commemoration service
Vultures are an ecologically vital group of birds that face a range of threats in all areas they occur and populations of many species are under pressure and some species are facing extinction. Commemorating the day was one of our efforts to spread the message to conserve vulture. Vultures are perfectly adapted to keep the environment clean and healthy by efficiently locating and consuming carcasses, recycling energy through the food web and preventing the spread of diseases. It is an unpaid role hence saving them will save our finances. Therefore, everyone should take part in repaying vultures for their services, by giving them the protection they deserve. The success of the event was made possible by the organisations shown in the picture below whom we are very thankful to. For more information about vultures, IVAD, and BirdLife Botswana please contact Keddy Moleofi at 00267 3190540 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.birdlifebotswana.org.bw.
Bird Population Monitoring Programme Coordinator