Because they play vital roles in the ecosystem by forestalling exposure to anthrax, rabies, tuberculosis and other deadly diseases in the society and also render free sanitation services valued at several millions of naira, Nigerians should make efforts to protect birds.
Birds such as vultures, which may be considered non useful to many, should also be accorded such protection as they are “natural environmental sanitation officers.”
These assertions were made by the Director General of Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mr Adeniyi Karunwi, in Lagos, through a press statement during the event marking this year’s World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) with the theme: “…and when the skies fall silent? Stop the illegal killing, taking and trade.”
According to Karunwi, a single vulture provides a scavenging benefit valued at around N2, 308,200 (US$ 11,600) over its lifetime, but sadly, birds are sometimes illegally hunted, targeted for sport shooting and trapped in their numbers for pets and meat, leading to a marked decline in all species of migratory birds.
He lamented the fact that the skies “are almost silent in Nigeria because of the over 90 per cent decline in our vulture population,” adding, “vultures clean up carcasses and waste from our urban centres and landscapes that would have been harmful. They are equipped with an immune system that allows them to breakdown waste and carcasses without any harmful effect to them and without any risk of passing diseases to the human populace.”
He observed that bird scavengers are replaced by dogs and other domestic animals and their proximity to humans makes the risk of exposure to these diseases higher because they are not equipped to process carcasses and waste in a non-harmful way.
Because of the decline in the number of birds, “they are no longer able to perform their function and other biota, which are ill-equipped for such tasks, are called into action with a potential lethal consequence on the human population,” he explained.
Nigeria is home to migratory birds as it lies along the Afro-Eurasian Flyway, “cutting across the coastal areas and other parts of the country. Birds migrate southwards from Europe to winter in Africa and pass through dangerous terrain to get to their wintering ground (in Nigeria and other African Countries). They are sometimes illegally hunted, targeted for sport shooting, and trapped in their numbers,” said the statement.
May 10 of every year is set aside to observe the World Migratory Bird Day (WMD), with the aim of raising awareness over the plight of migratory birds which include waterfowls, passerines and large storks, vultures and raptors.