Renowned environment conservation and sustainability advocate, Mariam Alonge on Friday in Lagos said cultural beliefs and activities have critically endangered the population of vultures which is crucial to environmental conservation.
Marian who is also the ambassador of the save the Vultures campaign, Nigerian Conservation Foundation spoke during her Book Reading titled: ”Vultures To The Rescue”, held at the American Corner, Ikeja, Lagos.
Vultures To The Rescue (the clean crew) is a pictorial children’s storybook that highlights the importance of vultures to our ecosystem and population.
It also tells stories of the misconceptions around vultures in Africa, especially in Nigeria and encourages children and youths to take action to protect their habitat.
Mariam said growing up vultures were birds that you see but as they became adults, across Africa, vulture populations have significantly declined by about 40 per cent over the last 50 years.
”The main cause of this decline is believed to be indiscriminate poisoning, poaching and their use in traditional beliefs. Some years ago, you could see vultures hovering around the neighbourhood whenever there has been a party or near abattoirs. This is no longer happening.
”Vultures play a huge role in the conservation of our environment. I found out that they help to keep the environment clean.
“Unfortunately over the years vultures have become critically endangered because of our cultural beliefs as Nigerians. We see them as evil omen, evil birds most people don’t want to have anything to do with it, so they kill them, and others use them for ritual purposes. These activities combined have a critically endangered population of the vultures.”
Mariam explained that the book is a deliberate effort to educate children as well as lend her voice to the save the vulture campaign. I am using my platform to advocate for the protection and conservation of vultures.
”I believe that if you want to change the mindset of people, change their way of thinking. And for a turnaround children must be carried along, adults will not be here forever. Educating the children will help us have well-informed children who grow into adults that make informed decisions for our environment.”
Speaking, the President, of United States Government Exchange Alumni in Nigeria, Mr. Mike Okwoche noted that the emphasis on the vulture is very crucial because a lot of young children have never seen the vulture and it is going extinct.
”Vultures are very conservative to our environment especially when it comes to taking away all the crumbs, all the decaying carcasses we see in our environment on daily basis. It is a day to give regard to what the vulture does. and then see how we can create consciousness in young people to ensure that they get to know that the vulture is some animal that contributes to cleaning up our environment.
”if the vultures were around you won’t need any conservationists, because the vultures know what to do. They are scavengers and they help to keep us safe and healthy by taking away all the things that would have caused us sickness and diseases.
“When people know better, they do better, we need to take environment conservation to the grassroots. We haven’t made the conversation about our environment a grassroots conversation. Whenever environmental conservation is discussed, it is held outside the country. That in itself creates a division, that makes people think these are matters that affect a certain class of people, this is not our problem”.
” Hence, we must start having environment conservation conversations with everyday people, just like we talk about politics and other issues. When we make it an everyday conversation. We need to spread the message using relatable information that children understand to educate and enlighten them.”
The highlight of the event was the interactive session which allowed the children to ask questions and share their experiences.