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Trade of threatened vultures and other raptors for fetish and bushmeat in West and Central Africa

  • R. Buij (a1), G. Nikolaus (a2), R. Whytock (a3), D. J. Ingram (a4) and D. Ogada (a5)...

Diurnal raptors have declined significantly in western Africa since the 1960s. To evaluate the impact of traditional medicine and bushmeat trade on raptors, we examined carcasses offered at markets at 67 sites (1–80 stands per site) in 12 countries in western Africa during 1990–2013. Black kite Milvus migrans and hooded vulture Necrosyrtes monachus together accounted for 41% of 2,646 carcasses comprising 52 species. Twenty-seven percent of carcasses were of species categorized as Near Threatened, Vulnerable or Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Common species were traded more frequently than rarer species, as were species with frequent scavenging behaviour (vs non-scavenging), generalist or savannah habitat use (vs forest), and an Afrotropical (vs Palearctic) breeding range. Large Afrotropical vultures were recorded in the highest absolute and relative numbers in Nigeria, whereas in Central Africa, palm-nut vultures Gypohierax angolensis were the most abundant vulture species. Estimates based on data extrapolation indicated that within West Africa 73% of carcasses were traded in Nigeria, 21% in Benin and 5% elsewhere. Offtake per annum in West Africa was estimated to be 975–1,462 hooded vultures, 356–534 palm-nut vultures, 188–282 Rüppell's griffons Gyps rueppellii, 154–231 African white-backed vultures Gyps africanus, 143–214 lappet-faced vultures Torgos tracheliotos, and 40–60 crowned eagles Stephanoaetus coronatus. This represents a sizeable proportion of regional populations, suggesting that trade is likely to be contributing significantly to declines. Stronger commitment is needed, especially by governments in Nigeria and Benin, to halt the trade in threatened raptors and prevent their extirpation.

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