The Hooded Vulture

The Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)

Author: Taiwo Adams

Africa holds 11 species of vultures with seven of them being endemic to the continent. The majority of these species are facing massive population decline and are on the brink of extinction, with IUCN red-list ratings ranging from Critically Endangered to Near Threatened. The Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus is one such vulture whose population is rapidly declining.

The hooded vulture is an old world vulture that is native to sub-Saharan Africa, with vast distribution in southern, eastern, and western Africa. Largely sedentary, it is often associated with human settlements but is also found in open grassland, forest edge, wooded savannah etc. It typically scavenges on carcasses of wildlife and domestic animals. In West Africa, breeding takes place throughout the year, most especially from September to July.  It is an arboreal nester usually laying a clutch of one egg.  The common name “Hooded Vulture” stems from the fact that the vulture has a small patch of downy feathers that runs along the back of its neck to the crown of its head, making it look like it is wearing a fluffy, cream-colored hood.

Populations of the Hooded Vultures are estimated at 197,000 individuals with over 83% decline in the last three generations. The species was listed as Least Concern in 2009 but is now Critically Endangered and on the verge of going into extinction. According to BirdLife International, poisoning is a major threat to their populations. Carcasses of large mammals such as elephants and buffalo are laced with poison after being poached, to reduce vulture numbers in areas where poachers are active which would expose their activities. The scavengers descend on the poisoned carcasses, thereby resulting in high mortality.  They are also often stereotyped for maliciousness and witchcraft which further expose them to attacks from humans. All stakeholders must employ suitable conservation strategies to keep Hooded Vulture populations from collapsing further.