The iconic Africa’s birds of prey, including long-crested eagle, African hawk eagle, and dark chanting goshawk, are staring at an extinction crisis amid mounting threats, international researchers said.
According to a study from global researchers published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, 90 percent of 42 species of African raptors could experience a drastic population decline, threatening ecosystem balance.
Based on road surveys conducted within four regions of Africa at 20- to 40-year intervals, the study noted that large birds of prey have experienced significant declines in unprotected areas where they are exposed to poaching and retaliatory attacks from farmers and herders.
Darcy Ogada, the Africa program director at the Peregrine Fund, an international conservation lobby, decried the loss of the continent’s majestic birds of prey, driven by human actions and shrinking natural habitation.
“One of Africa’s most iconic raptors, the Secretarybird, is on the brink of extinction,” Ogada said in a statement issued in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Thursday evening, calling for redoubling efforts to avert further loss of birds of prey in the continent.
Given the myriad threats facing Africa’s charismatic eagle and vulture species, including loss of their natural habitat and poisoning, they could become extinct in much of the continent’s unprotected land by the latter half of this century, noted researchers.
The researchers cited a steep decline among raptors currently classified as being of “least concern” in the global Red List of threatened species, including the Wahlberg Eagle, Long-crested eagle, African-harrier hawk, and brown-snake eagle.
Phil Shaw, a lead author of the study, noted that since the 1970s, a large swathe of African forested land and savanna grassland has been converted into farmland, intensifying pressure on the raptors’ population.
Shaw emphasized the need to expand the continent’s protected landmass and mitigate pressure on birds of prey whose contribution to ecosystem and human health is immense.
Besides poisoning by herders and poachers, African raptors are grappling with shrinking breeding sites and food supplies, electrocution on power lines, and collision with wind turbines, said the researchers.
The decline in raptors population was twice higher in West Africa compared to other parts of the continent, the researchers noted, adding that some raptors, like Beaudouin’s snake-eagle, native to West Africa, are vanishing into oblivion.
Martin Odino, the study co-author from the Peregrine Fund and National Museums of Kenya, stressed that educating grassroots communities, policymakers, and wildlife managers will be key to strengthening the conservation of Africa’s birds of prey.