Ritualists depleting vulture population: Experts

By Chipo Gudhe

Traditional and faith healers are driving vultures towards extinction, killing them for ritual purposes, according to Birdlife Zimbabwe’s Programme Manager for Preventing Extinction, Leeroy Moyo.

Speaking at a recent workshop organized by Birdlife in partnership with the Traditional Medical Practitioners Council (TMPC) in Kwekwe, Moyo highlighted the alarming rate at which vultures are being killed for use in traditional medicine. “Studies have shown that across Africa, 29% of vultures are being used in traditional medicine. They are part of the endangered bird species. We are fortunate to have about six species, but unfortunately, about five of them are being used in traditional medicine,” Moyo stated.

Moyo said Birdlife Zimbabwe is actively working to raise awareness among traditional and faith healers about the severe threat their practices pose to these endangered birds.

“We are holding workshops like this one in Kwekwe to educate traditional and faith healers on the plight of vultures. Our goal is to encourage them to find substitutes in their healing processes rather than using the threatened vultures,” Moyo said.

He also emphasized the legal protections in place, noting that under the Parks and Wildlife Act, vultures are classified as specially protected animals, and it is a criminal offense to harm them.

In addition to ritual killings, vultures face significant threats from poisoning and habitat destruction. “Vultures also face threats from poisoning, with 61% of the population being killed by poachers who use cyanide. Another 9% die due to electrocution as they are forced to use electrical pylons for breeding following the destruction of their natural habitats,” Moyo explained.

TMPC Chief Licensing Officer Jennifer Mawuzhendi supported Birdlife’s efforts, urging healers to seek alternatives to using vultures in their practices.

“We are raising awareness among healers to find alternatives rather than threatening these birds, as it is a criminal offense to be found in possession of wildlife or to kill it,” she said.



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