Vultures are under extreme pressure from a range of human activities. Drastic and widespread vulture population declines in recent years in Asia and Africa are reflected by IUCN Red List status: the majority of species of Old World Vultures are now considered ‘Critically Endangered’.
Vultures are threatened by a wide range of human activities, such as direct and indirect poisoning, habitat loss and degradation, decreased food availability, electrocution and collision with power grids and human disturbance. This crisis is of particular concern because vultures provide critically important ecosystem services by cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste in the environment, thus reducing the spread of dangerous diseases such as anthrax and rabies – resulting in highly significant economic and human health benefits. Vultures utilize vast home ranges, frequently crossing geo-political boundaries and so international cooperation is essential to their conservation.
In November 2014, CMS Parties gathered at COP11 in Ecuador adopted CMS Resolution 11.14 Programme of Work on Migratory Birds and Flyways, which established the mandate to develop a Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP), under the auspices of the CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU). The mission is to bring together representatives of Range States, partners and interested parties, to develop a coordinated Action Plan for submission to CMS COP12, scheduled to be held in October 2017.
The overall aim is to develop a comprehensive strategic Action Plan covering the whole geographic ranges (127 countries) of 15 species of Old World Vultures to promote concerted and collaborative international conservation actions. The objectives of the Vulture MsAP are to:
Four Regional Workshops were held in 2016-2017, to gather detailed information on species distribution, population sizes and trends, as well as a better understanding of the threats and associated drivers, and the conservation measures required to address them. The African Regional Workshop was held in October 2016 in Senegal and co-organised by the BirdLife International; the European Regional Workshop was held in late October 2016 in Spain and co-organised by the Vulture Conservation Foundation; the Asian Regional Workshop was held in late November 2016 in Mumbai, India and co-organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; and the Middle East Regional Workshop was held in early February 2017 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates and co-organised with the Environment and Protected Areas Authority of the Emirate of Sharjah.
The Overarching Workshop to develop the Vulture MsAP took place mid-February 2017 in Toledo, Spain, at the kind invitation of the Regional Government of Castilla-La Mancha. This concluding workshop reviewed the first consolidated draft of the Vulture MsAP, incorporating the four regional components; elaborated certain key strategic components of the MsAP which had not been collectively considered at the Regional Workshops; and engendered and developed multi-lateral support.
A month-long Public Consultation Exercise on the second draft of the Vulture MsAP was launched in March 2017, with the purpose to reach out even further to invite comments and improvements from anyone who recognizes the importance of vultures and the critical need to conserve them. Comments received during the consultation period will be reviewed and, where appropriate, integrated into a final version of the Vulture MsAP, due to be completed by mid-May 2017 for formal submission to the CMS Secretariat.
The Vulture MsAP is expected to be considered by Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) at the 12th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP12), scheduled to be held in Manila, Philippines in October 2017.