Ethiopia celebrates World Migratory Birds Day (WMBD) today, October 12, 2019, in Metehara town, an event happening at a time when migratory birds are being threatened to extinction by human practices emerging in Ethiopia. The Egyptian vultures are the most celebrated and endangered species of migratory birds that fly over 4,000 km from the Balkans each year. A second day celebration of the MWBD is scheduled for October 15, 2019 to be held in Afar, Logia.
Reports indicate that the number of migratory Egyptian Vultures has decreased over the past 30 years, by 80 percent. Hence, Egyptian Vulture New Life Project was established to “reinforce the Balkan population of the Egyptian vulture. The project conducts frequent counting of the vultures and aims to reduce adult mortality, reinforce the breeding population and increase awareness-of and support for the Egyptian Vulture.
The WMBD celebration spearheaded by the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) aims at preserving these birds by creating awareness about the dangers these birds face, in addition to the lengthy flight they make.
According to a statement sent exclusively to The Reporter by the Society, “Their migration is filled with various hazards. Some of these hazards, which can be fatal, include poaching, collision with wind turbines, habitat destruction, water barriers, poisoning of carcasses it feeds on and electrocution. The project partners are working with the local government to help mitigate the threats faced by migratory species like the Egyptian Vulture.”
Hence, it was learnt that the celebration includes trainings about vulture conservation, and their ecological importance to local authorities and elementary school teachers.
“World Migratory Bird Day 2019 is a unique chance to celebrate our migrant birds, to join efforts to address the serious problem of plastic pollution and to highlight its negative effects on migratory birds,” the Association said in the statement.
According to an abstract of a research conducted by Birdlife International, based on the data collected by interviewing local people, “The Afar triangle is a relatively safe wintering place for the Egyptian Vultures. The use of poisons against the carnivores seems to be practiced widely, electrocution is probably a very minor threat (no electrocuted birds were found) and the local people traditionally do not harm the vultures. Given the huge importance of Afar for the wintering birds from big parts of Asia, long-term work on the species needs to be initiated and the limiting factors closely monitored. However, the developing and expanding medium voltage electricity network in Ethiopia, which is being built in the wintering location of these birds, is becoming a strong threat for the future of the large birds of prey.”
Another research conducted in 2014 by Volen Arkumarev, Vladimir Dobrev, Yilma Dellelegn, and Georgi Popgeorgiev cited that they have found a study indicating “Egyptian Vultures in Ethiopia, as frequently found dead, unlike the other vultures,” even though they did not find the same. They indicated that “The most serious potential threat for the Egyptian Vulture in the region seems to be non-intentional poisoning. Poison baits with strychnine are widely used by veterinary departments in Afar targeting stray dogs; but this common practice poses a high risk of poisoning or secondary poisoning for the Egyptian Vulture and other scavengers.”
Hence, serious policy interventions are recommended including complete avoidance of mass poisoning of stray dogs and replacing it with other alternatives like vaccination and reproduction controls. Insulating electric grid lines is also another recommendation.