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Conservation Updates

BCP and BirdWatch Zambia Enter into Partnership to Monitor and Protect Vultures

Zambia remains one of Africa’s most heavily forested countries and contains phenomenally diverse and spectacular wildlife legacy landscapes, home to a diverse array of species that draw tourists from across the World. However, a combination of unsustainable land-use practices, deforestation, natural disasters linked to climate change (such as drought), and a growing population, are heavily impacting the delicate ecosystems of many of Zambia’s wild spaces. The result of this is habitat loss, poaching, and greater incidents of human-wildlife interaction (impacting both sides of this ‘conflict’). At BCP we understand that bringing revenue to communities in some of Zambia’s most impoverished areas through REDD+ isn’t enough. In order to tackle habitat loss, bolstering Zambia’s conservation efforts is vital to help conserve Zambia’s wild spaces and its occupants. One such way is partnering with some of Zambia’s key conservation organizations such as BirdWatch Zambia.

We are stronger together in our fight to secure Zambia’s conservation efforts… after all, partnership is in our very name!

Big Thank you to Caring For Conservation Fund for the incredible photos of the tagging! 

As part of the partnership, BCP and BirdWatch Zambia have teamed up on a vulture tagging project to help fund equipment and field activities, identify large birds’ nests, provide rapid poisoning response, share relevant avifauna data, and contribute to key biodiversity areas re-assessments. Last month, BirdWatch Zambia and BCP successfully fitted tracking units on three White-backed vultures in Munyamadzi Private Game Reserve in the Luangwa Valley, to track their movements, with plans to tag 7 more in the coming months. This is just the start of an extremely exciting and promising partnership, which aims to contribute toward the protection of one of Africa’s most threatened species of birds. The project will extend to Lower Zambezi in 2023.

Earning themselves a reputation as one of Africa’s ‘ultimate ‘scavengers, vultures are a crucial species and play a vital role in the ecosystems they form a part of. With impressive stature and enormous wingspan, vultures are unlike any bird. They effortlessly soar through the sky, thousands of meters above the ground in search of their next meal. They provide ecosystems with defense against the likelihood of disease transmission by quickly locating and eating decomposing carcasses, which otherwise would turn into a breeding ground for bacteria.

They are also, however, one of the world’s most threatened bird groups. Unfortunately, African vulture populations are declining at devastating rates of between 70% and 97% (92% or worse in 5 species) over a period of three generations (summarized most recently by Ogada et al. 2015), with seven formerly abundant species now globally threatened with extinction. Vultures often fall victim to unintentional and intentional poisoning incidents, in which carcasses are baited with highly toxic substances to kill livestock predators. Unintentional because they feed on poisoned carcasses aimed at killing large carnivores (to prevent them from encroaching on peoples’ land) or intentional because of poaching and killing based on traditional beliefs. Habitat destruction and encroachment of human activities have also contributed to sharp declines in vulture populations, leaving the species’ future in a delicate balance.

Vultures occur in the forestland under BCPs protection and are considered a ‘trigger species’ for our projects under CCB (The Climate, Community & Biodiversity). CCB Standards identify projects that simultaneously address climate change, support local communities and smallholders, and conserve biodiversity. In the present case, vultures qualify as trigger species based on the vulnerability criteria, and the BCP projects could play a significant role in the global conservation effort for the species.

About BirdWatch Zambia

BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ) formerly Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS), is a membership-based environmental NGO established in 1969. BWZ is a member of a global environmental and conservation partnership through its membership of BirdLife International. BWZ’s objective is to promote the study, conservation, and general interest in birds and their habitats in Zambia.

With the rising number of vulture deaths due to various threats- the primary reason being poisoning (both intentional and unintentional), BirdWatch Zambia has led a number of conservation efforts including the Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) initiative to contribute to the reversal of vulture declines. In wildlife dispersal areas (some falling within BCP’s protected areas) intersecting with community-owned lands, private farms, and other types of land use, the concept of VSZs plays a vital role in the long-term survival of vultures in such areas. The idea behind the creation of VSZs is to reduce vulture threats (e.g., poisoning, electrocution). In areas where there are extant populations of vultures, BirdWatch Zambia has made concerted efforts to encourage and support key stakeholders such as land managers, landowners, and local communities to propagate this initiative to save vultures.

Traditionally, protected areas have been seen as a key measure to conserve wildlife and their habitat. However, these spaces alone are not adequate for the conservation of far-ranging species like vultures whose home ranges go beyond the boundaries of these designated areas.

Partnering with BCP means more eyes on the ground and more conservation efforts for vultures. This partnership will allow for the population of vultures falling in forests under BCP’s protected areas to be monitored and relevant authorities to be engaged to curb the illegal killing of wildlife or destruction of habitat.

To learn more about our work you can follow us on:

Facebook – @BirdWatch Zambia

LinkedIn – @ BirdWatch Zambia

Instagram – @ BirdWatch Zambia

Website – www.birdwatchzambia.org

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Charles-Albert Petre, PhD

Carbon Specialist

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Marilet Louw

Conservation Manager

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Chloe Evans

Communication Manager

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