Following Egyptian vultures to Niger

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Egyptian vulture standing on a rock
Egyptian vulture in its overwintering ground in Niger

Europe’s only migratory vulture species, the Egyptian vulture, spends its winters in warmer climates south in Africa. The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE team joined forces with the Sarhara Conservation Fund to investigate the state populations in one of its overwintering grounds in nIger. 

The White Vulture

Heading to the village of Kéllé in the Zinder region of Niger the Research Team from the project visited an area where Egyptian vultures are often found amongst the rocky cliffs, a perfect nesting habitat for the sacred ‘White Vulture’ as it is known by the people of the village.

Over four days the team wanted to assess the population status of the Egyptian vulture population in the area and working with villagers and locals to better understand the threats to the birds and what conservation action could be taken to mitigate them.  

Field studies 

The best way to spot Egyptian vultures is to scan the cliffs and looking for their nests which are easily spotted from the bird droplet trail. Also, escorted by locals the team searched the rocky cliff faces and observed six birds and seven active nests suggesting a well established resident population 

In order to better understand the population the team visited two well known congregation sites, places where the birds usually meet in larger numbers, an abattoir and a watering hole. At the abattoir two birds were spotted, an adult and juvenile, feeding on the remains from the slaughtered animals. The water hole, however, was dry and the team were unsuccessful in their observation.

Working together for vultures 

As well as field studies of the bird the research team were keen to discuss the status of the birds with locals such as village chiefs and older people. Through formal interviews and informal conversations it was unanimously agreed there was a slow decline of vultures and they suggested that poaching was the main threat- most of it to furnish Nigerian black market- but lack of water or food were also suggested hypothesis. 

The level of concern and interest shown by the locals and villagers about the population of the ‘White Vulture’ was encouraging for the research team as they will be key in facilitating collaborative conservation actions in the Egyptian vulture’s overwintering habitat. With more visits planned in the coming years the Egyptian New LIFE project team hope to work closely with locals and other conservation charities to protect the species in the area. 

The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE 

The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE aims to reinforce the Egyptian vulture population in their Europe’s easternmost range across the Balkans. By actively managing and restocking the population by releasing captive-bred birds the project will support the small Balkan population which number between 60 and 80 pairs across the whole region. The project is working to deliver conservation measures that eliminate major known threats such as illegal poisoning and electrocution in their summer breeding grounds. Monitoring the population closely using GPS transmitters will also help the project tackle the major threats Egyptian vultures face.  The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE is a partnership of organisations, led by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds and Bulgarian conservation organisation Green Balkans,from 14 countries spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa, to protect Egyptian vultures not only in Europe but all along their migratory flyway.

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