August 20, 2012 IN Award

Ruth Akagu awarded the Raptor Research Foundation’s Leslie Brown Memorial Award
Ruth Akagu, Nigerian Conservation Foundation

We are delighted to announce that Ruth Akagu, with the Nigerian ConservationFoundation (NCF) is the 2012 recipient of the Raptor Research Foundation’s Leslie Brown Memorial Award. She holds an MSc in Conservation Biology and has a valuable knowledge of bird conservation from West Africa perspective. She is, currently, the officer in charge of species and Important Bird Area Monitoring programme in Nigeria and the World Bird Database Focal Point for Nigeria. She has participated in several biodiversity projects. She worked with BirdLife sub-regional office in Accra to implement the Wildlife Clubs of Africa project involving 17 countries in Africa. Her research interest is on raptor, forest and water birds and trying to link this to improving community livelihood. Ruth is, currently, pulling together data on some of Nigeria’s IBAs to produce a status and trend report for these IBAs to expedite their conservation.

In recognition of the threats to vultures and their decline, BirdLife Africa Partnership launched a global awareness campaign against the demise of vultures by setting up a vulture monitoring network which will provide data enabling problems to be identified and conservation solution to be developed. Countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia have baseline information on problems faced by vulture species in those countries. Similar baseline survey is been proffer for Zimbabwe and Mali. In line with her work on these species, it became apparent that Nigeria had no baseline information to contribute substantially to this proposed network. In Nigeria, the Information on the status of vultures is patchy or non-existent for some areas and where there is information, it’s either in piecemeal or not substantiated. The decline in vulture population is on the increase in Nigeria. Vultures are now rarely seen in most parts of the country. Sightings of Hooded Vultures, which heretofore populated refuse dumps and abattoirs, seems to be a thing of the past. Also, nationally, the importance of vultures and the role they play in ecosystem engineering is critically lacking.

The financial support received from RRF’s Leslie Brown Memorial Fund will be used to carry out a thorough review of literature and historical records on Vultures in Nigeria to give a complete picture of their distribution and plight. This will in turn be use to develop a proposal for a detailed survey of population size and causes of decline of vultures in Nigeria to enable for a conservation strategy to be put in place. This will enable Nigeria to be part of the global network in vulture monitoring. The project will involve; developing questionnaires that will be used to collect and collate data. Detailed information’s regarding the past records of vulture will be collated from available literature via internet, call for information from ornithologist/ bird enthusiast and individuals. The project will be carried out in four regions of the country based on the review, survey areas would be randomly selected with a focus on selected states and sites for field activities. Incoming information will then be reviewed and report complied. Networks of individual/organization for monitoring will be put in place. This project will serve as a pilot for a detailed survey on population size and cause of vulture decline in Nigeria to help address the problem.

RRF encourages the cooperative support of valuable research and is pleased that this project is technically supported by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute.