urgent call!

Jonathan Meyrav 25/02/2019 00:00




The Champions of the Flyway is now a well-known event in birding and conservation circles. Since our humble beginning in 2014 we have now raised close to $400,000 for bird conservation, mainly for projects tackling the illegal killing of birds along the Flyways. In the past 5 years we have shed light on challenging issues migrating birds face and helped 6 different Birdlife International partners in their struggle against the slaughter of migrants on the ground.

The 2018 project was our most successful to date, not only did our teams raise over $100,000 to protect the birds of the Adriatic Flyway, we also encouraged two Birdlife Partners (Birdlife Serbia and Birdlife Croatia) to bridge political boundaries and to work together for the benefit of birds, for the first time in many years.



In 2019 Champions of the Flyway is going in a slightly different direction. Following meetings with the Birdlife International secretariat we decided that it is time to take the power of the COTF family to address a serious and urgent matter; the crashing of Vulture populations in East Africa.  For the first time Champions is partnering with a Birdlife international Partner in Africa, Nature Kenya. Together we hope to raise funds and awareness to one of the most burning conservation issues today.

Sadly the situation of Vultures in Africa is very grim and no less than 7 species of Vultures are seriously declining, 4 of which are already endangered. Some species such as Ruppell's, White backed and white headed Vultures have declined by more than 90% (!) Others are going in the same direction. The reasons for the crash in Vulture populations are diverse but one of the biggest factors is poisoning of Vultures in the Great Rift Valley.



From Nature Kenya:  Working for Vultures on the ground

In the past years the numbers of Vultures in the Rift Valley are rapidly declining. Most of the casualties are due to poisoning.  The poisoning is not aimed directly at Vultures but rather at Hyenas and Lions that attack cattle herds. Locals place poisoned baits for the predators but usually Vultures are the first to reach the carcass. In the past years there were several major incidents where dozens of Vultures of several species were found on single carcasses.

Nature Kenya has been putting a lot of effort into projects concerning Vultures in the country and especially in the Mara region. The work on the ground includes working with officials and staff of the Masai Mara Park, coordination with the local governments and with community based wildlife conservancies.

The project is based first and foremost on education and outreach in the villages in the Mara region. Nature Kenya staff visit the villages and recruit local volunteers that act as mediators and conservation leaders. The next step is to create and train "response teams" that patrol the area and are first to react in case of a suspected poisoning incident. Today there are several response teams on the ground and they follow a specific protocol as dictated by Nature Kenya. The protocol includes tracking, documentation, reporting and various steps from collecting samples to the disposing of suspicious carcasses.



Recent events included the following:

A Patrol of the Masai Mara park officials came across a dead Hyena that was suspected to be poisoned. The team documented and reported their findings on a local Whatsapp group, collected samples and eventually decontaminated the corpse to avoid secondary poisonings.

Another recent example involves a local villager that found a live Ruppell's Vulture that showed signs of distress and "acted poisoned" in the words of the finder. The villager contacted the village facilitator which picked up the bird and took it into care.

The Vulture patrol teams have quite a lot of experience and during the past year have also found several other carcasses that were disposed of and a few Vultures that were electrocuted. The bottom line is that the Nature Kenya model is successful and has good results.

In order to keep working on the ground Nature Kenya needs all the support they can get. Over the years several organisations were involved in the Vultures project, some foundations donated actual funds, others equipment and more. These collaborations have now ended and as of early 2019 besides some scientific collaboration, there is no actual support of the work on the ground.




As stated above, the 2019 COTF project is slightly different project compared to what we have done to date, but we think that the Flyway Family needs to step up where we are needed the most, and the Vultures of East Africa need help, better sooner than later. We are thankful to our supporters over the years but we now need your help more than ever so we could protect and save nature's Cleanup crew, the bringers of life and some of the most majestic birds on this planet!

We hope that the funds raised through the Champions of the Flyway will allow Nature Kenya to continue educating, training and working with local communities, park and govt. officials and for this we need your help! Spread the word, support the project and do your part to help the Vultures of East Africa today, before it is too late!



Ruppell's Vultures fighting Golden Jackal in Ndutu Tanzania     Photo: Yoram Shpirer


Vultures are the bringers of life and they are the end of the line for disease and death. If Vultures disappear then diseased such as rabies, anthrax and others will thrive in Africa and beyond, it is as simple as that.

Follow the link to the team pages, choose your favorite team and place a donation on their behalf.  All the money raised will go to Nature Kenya so do your part for Vultures and conservation today!




Thank you! You are all Flyway champions!

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