Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Not in wilderness: African vulture strongholds remain in areas with high human density.

PLoS One. 2018 Jan 31;13(1):e0190594. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190594. eCollection 2018. Henriques M1,2, Granadeiro JP3, Monteiro H4, Nuno A5, Lecoq M6, Cardoso P7, Regalla A2, Catry P1. Author information 1 MARE-Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, ISPA-Instituto Universitário, Rua Jardim do Tabaco Lisbon, Portugal. 2 IBAP-Instituto da Biodiversidade e Áreas Protegidas, Avenida Dom Settimio Arturo Ferrazzetta, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. 3 CESAM, Departamento de Biologia Animal, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Campo Grande, Lisbon, Portugal. 4 Coastal Planning Office, Bairro de Belém, Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. 5 Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall, United Kingdom. 6 BirdLife International, Africa Partnership Secretariat, Dakar Fann, Senegal. 7 Bioinsight, Lda. Rua Antero de Quental, Odivelas, Portugal. Abstract Vultures constitute an important functional group in many ecosystems, providing crucial ecosystem services both in natural and humanized environments. These scavengers are facing massive declines worldwide, but in several African countries virtually nothing is known on populations' status and threats, hampering the development of adequate conservation strategies. In Guinea-Bissau, globally important populations of Hooded Necrosyrtes monachus and African white-backed vultures Gyps africanus were recently reported. Using the country as a study area, we aim to characterize human-vulture interactions in West Africa applying a multidisciplinary approach. We assessed the status and distribution of vulture populations using data from 1711 km of roadside transects, examined predictors of their distribution, and produced a nationwide population estimate for the Hooded Vulture, using an innovative method based on the relationship between the size of human population in settlements and vulture numbers. We conducted 47 stakeholder interviews to assess perceived roles played by vultures, and to investigate potential anthropogenic threats. Hooded vultures were strongly associated with high human population densities, whereas no relation was found between African white-backed and Rüppell's vultures and any of the tested predictors, which included cattle density, precipitation and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, among others. We estimate a national population of 43347 Hooded vultures, the largest population reported in the species range. Respondents were generally aware of the services provided by vultures, especially waste and carcass removal, including in urban areas. Hunting for witchcraft and traditional medicine was the most frequently recognised threat, while poisoning was ranked as having the highest impact. We hypothesise that poisoning-related mortality may be affecting African white-backed and Rüppell's vultures' distribution and explain their scarcity in apparently highly suitable habitats. Our results suggest a mutualistic rather than a commensalistic relationship between vultures and humans, with important implications for designing and implementing conservation strategies. PMID: 29385172 PMCID: PMC5791984 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0190594 [Indexed for MEDLINE] Free PMC Article