When the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) set out on February 21, 2022, to advance community engagement within identified communities hosting the remnant vulture population in eastern Nigerian states of Enugu and Anambra, the focus was on vulture conservation sensitisation via a training workshop.
The specific objectives were to:
- Select, improve, and enhance the capabilities and skills of interested vulture population monitoring and habitat protection volunteers within two “Vulture Save Zone” (VSZ) in Anambra and Enugu states, and
- Raise awareness on the conservation need of vulture within targeted VSZ communities in southeastern Nigerian, leveraging on social networks like market women association, youth groups and as well communities’ leadership to bring about protection of these endangered species in the last habitat they are existing.
The following day, a total of 35 community individuals from seven villages of Awka Etiti, Idemili South LGA of Anambra were assembled in Awka Etity community town hall for awareness and sanitisation meeting on conservation need of existing vultures within their communities.
Same was hosted two days later (on February 24, 2022) with 38 community individuals at Ihe community, Awgu LGA of Enugu State.
The purpose was to raise awareness and sensitise the community people on the need to conserve and coexist with these critically endangered species while pointing out benefits of the species’ existence to them.
Diverse target groups such as market women, hunters, youth group and butchers from abattoirs where the vultures feed, as well the leadership of the communities, graced the meeting. Discussion and sensitisation centred around threats to the vultures including direct killing and habitat fragmentation.
It was gathered during the discussion that residents from the community do not kill the vultures. Rather, intruders or hunters from northern Nigeria were alleged to be the major threats to vultures through direct hunting and poisoning.
In closing of the sensitisation session, candidates were nominated to serve as “Community Vulture Monitoring and Protection Officers” and a total of 13 individuals within Awka Etity Community of Anambra and 15 individuals from Ihe community of Enugu expressed interest and commitment to serve.
During the training session, 13 volunteers of Awka Etity in Anambra State and 15 of Ihe community Enugu State were introduced to theoretical and practical sessions on vulture identification, population counts, best practice on awareness advocacy for vulture conservation as well as spotting and preventing threats and potentials threats within the communities VSZ.
These volunteers were given datasheet and trained on how collect relevant field data related to the population and habitat monitoring. Branded jacket was distributed to the volunteers to give them a sense of responsibility to effectively serve as the community vultures monitoring officers. They were enjoined to carryout regular field monitoring and community sensitisation within the locality to promote the conservation of the vultures in the area.
President General of Awka Etity and “Onowu” of the Ihe community, representing the late King, pledged total support for the volunteer’s operations, even as he sought formal ties with the NCF.
In an apparent readiness and commitment to work, the volunteers expressed concern about law enforcement backup and channel of communications to aid arrest of the illegal hunters or farmers encroaching the protected habitats of these birds in the community.
The gathering urged the NCF to work within its enforcement network comprising the Nigeria Police Force, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Immigration Service etc. within state chapters to provide the necessary support to these volunteers as well work closely with the community leadership to revive some of the outdated bylaws.
It was also suggested that the volunteers should be empowered to implement the revised and existing bylaws in the community to boost vulture conservation.