Bird Association Concerned about the Killing of Vultures for Rituals

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By Madiba Singhateh

The West Africa Bird Association of the Gambia (WABA-G) has expressed grave concerns about the recent killing of vultures in the country and within the sub-region for rituals.

Fa Gimba Camara, the head of the research Unit of the WABA-G’s birds study Unit, said vultures in the country and within the sub-region, face serious threats from communities.

Mr. Camara expressed this concern while speaking in an interview on their action plan to save West Africa’s vultures from this cruel practice. 

The interview, which was published in Mongay Bay News states that the West African Culture Conservation Action Plan (WAVCAP), will support conservation organizations from sixteen countries within the region in the next 20 years.

According to the report, vultures in the sub-region face serious threats from ritual-based communities in Guinea Bissau and other parts of the Sub-region, where the heads of these birds are cut off and used in ritual rite activities.

According to Mr. Camara, ‘we are faced with a similar situation in the Gambia where the head of vultures are cut off for ritual beliefs.’

He outlined that the Gambia has eight species of vultures and the common one is the hooded vulture whose population is critically endangered already in Guinea Bissau.

‘‘In Gunjur, we recorded an incident on 49 hooded vulture heads that were cut off but when the slaughterhouse manager was asked, he said they do not know who did it,’’ Camara said, adding that normally, the birds are poisoned and will be seen in places lying dead at slaughterhouses with their heads cut off. Camara said they were informed that those who do this dreadful act, usually do this at night.

Camara also said that sometimes, the birds are killed by cattle headers and they are left to rot or to be eaten by dogs.

According to Camara, vultures provide a lot of benefits for the ecosystem as nature’s cleaners. He said when dead animals are thrown away, they are fed on by the vultures to control airborne diseases that may come from the rotten carcasses of these dead animals, thereby maintaining a healthy balance in the proper function of the ecosystem.

Speaking about the West African Conservation Action Plan, Mr. Camara said the plan talks about the protection of the eight species of vultures within the sub-region, and the key to this is to provide awareness creation and data sharing for the people. He said they are implementing a project for the Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau, to target traditional healers for them to create other alternative medicine rather than using vulture parts for rituals. He said they need more awareness creation for vulture rituals and beliefs because only Gambia and Guinea Bissau have this large number of hooded vultures.

“These types of vultures are becoming an endangered species and are becoming extinct because of this practice. We should therefore ensure the remaining species are protected,” he said.

Speaking further on why vultures in Gambia face lesser threats compared to other countries, Camara said the country’s vultures were never threatened before, and there were times when people ate selected bush meat with fewer sacrificial issues, compared to other countries in the sub-region. He said a survey on the vulture population in the Gambia was carried out and many of the people, who said vultures should not be killed, are not even conservationists.