Justification of Red List Category
It is suspected that this species is currently undergoing an extremely rapid population reduction owing to indiscriminate poisoning, trade for traditional medicine, hunting for food, persecution and electrocution, as well as habitat loss and degradation. Very rapid reductions have been estimated for the global population based on road transect data from West Africa, Cameroon, Botswana and Kenya. However, the West Africa data only covers the period preceding 2004, when the rates of reduction there were slower than central and East Africa. Since then, very rapid reductions and local extirpations have been reported from many West African countries to the extent that declines here are suspected to have exceeded the very rapid reductions estimated elsewhere. While there is a clear need for repeats of the large-scale transect data from West Africa, it is suspected that overall recent rates of reduction exceed 80% over the current and future three-generation period. Hooded Vulture is therefore assessed as Critically Endangered under Criteria A3cd+4acd.
Given evidence of recent declines in various parts of its range, this species' population is suspected to number a maximum of 197,000 individuals (Ogada and Buij 2011). This equates to a maximum of 131,320 mature individuals, rounded here to 131,000 mature individuals. This is a very approximate value, and it is noted that the number may have reduced considerably in the past decade.
This species' population has declined rapidly (Ogada et al. 2016). Based on road transect data from West Africa collected between 1969/70 and 2003/4 (Thiollay 2006), subsequently adjusted for area (P. Shaw in litt. 2022), the population was undergoing an estimated annual decline of -2.8%, equivalent to a reduction of 68% over three generations. This is estimated/projected to have been the minimum rate of population reduction up to 2022.
However, since the West Africa data was collected, population crashes have been reported across many West African countries, including Côte d’Ivoire (Salewski 2021, A.A. Asso, N. A. Koné and V. Salewski in litt. 2022), Togo (N. Arcilla and Z. Kolani in litt. 2022), Benin (C. Dabone in litt. 2022) and Ghana (outside of Mole National Park) (Gbogbo et al. 2016, S. Goded and S.B. Yiadom in litt. 2022) and from the wider landscape in Nigeria (Awoyemi 2021, Williams et al. 2021a, b), along with the evidence of illegal killing occurring in areas considered more secure (Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Gambia). It has been almost entirely extirpated in some parts of its range, for example in Edo State, southern Nigeria (Nosazeogie et al. 2018). Roost counts in Dakar, Senegal, found a drop in numbers from c.3,000 in 1969-1971 to c.400 in 2016, equating to a decline of 82% over three generations (Mullié et al. 2017). Although the tiny proportion of the population in South Africa and Eswatini seems to be experiencing only marginal declines, more recent transect data also shows rapid reductions in Kenya and northern Botswana, and the current small population size in southern African countries appears to stem from rapid declines in earlier decades. Updated trends are therefore urgently required for West Africa, but recent reductions are suspected to have been at a rate that considerably exceeds the 68% estimated from the road transect data (Ogada et al. 2016, P. Shaw in litt. 2022). As such the rate of reduction over the past three generations is placed in a band of 68-79%. Given how recently very large numbers remained in many West African countries, meaning this area held a large majority of the remaining population approximately two generations ago (26 years), and the extremely rapid and recent reductions and local extirpations reported from these countries, the overall (current and future) rate of reduction is suspected to be significantly higher. It is here placed in a suspected band of 67-90% over three generations, for the period from 1996-2035 (covering a period one generation into the future), and also for the future three-generation period, 2023-2062.
This species is widespread in Africa south of the Sahara; from Senegal and southern Mauritania east through southern Niger and Chad, to southern Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and western Somalia, southwards to northern Namibia and Botswana, and through Zimbabwe to southern Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa and Eswatini (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, eBird 2021). Across this very large range, the species is generally sedentary with some dispersal by non-breeders and immature birds, and movements in response to rainfall in the Sahel of West Africa (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Recent investigations conclude that there are no consistent differences between the putative subspecies, hence it is treated as monotypic (Barlow et al. 2020), however it is uncertain whether some parts of the range could be considered separate subpopulations.
This has historically been one of the most abundant vultures, especially in West Africa, but data and observations of varying coverage and quality from various parts of its range suggest it is undergoing a very rapid decline in its global population (Ogada and Buij 2011, Ogada et al. 2016, D. Ogada and P. Shaw in litt. 2022). In West Africa, coastal Gambia (with estimates of 7,000-10,500 in a 600 km2 sampled area [Jallow et al. 2016]) and southern coastal Senegal (with possibly 2,350-2,700 pairs in the Ziguinchor Départment alone [B. Bargain in litt. 2016]) remain a stronghold for the species (Barlow and Fulford 2013, C.R. Barlow in litt. 2022). Until recently Guinea-Bissau was considered to have the largest secure national population of more than 43,000 individuals (Henriques et al. 2018), however since 2019 large-scale poisoning incidents have occurred, likely due to cross-border demand for vulture parts (Henriques et al. 2020, M. Henriques in litt. 2022) and declines are suspected to have commenced. Elsewhere all reports are of rapid or extremely rapid reductions: more than 80% reduction in three generations from roost counts in Dakar, northern Senegal (Mullié et al. 2017); rapid reductions and disappearance from large parts of Ghana (abundant only recently, e.g. 500 at Kumasi in 1996 [Mundy 2000]), including from urban Accra (Gbogbo et al. 2016) and with only Mole National Park likely to hold a breeding population (S. Goded and S.B. Yiadom in litt. 2022); near disappearance from Côte d’Ivoire outside of Comoé National Park (Salewski 2021, A.A. Asso, N. A. Koné and V. Salewski in litt. 2022); disappearance from large parts of Togo, where it was previously numerous, with fears that national extinction is possible within 10 years (N. Arcilla and Z. Kolani in litt. 2022); collapse of the formerly large population in Edo State, Nigeria (Nosazeogie et al. 2018) and reports of declines and disappearances from abattoirs and communities in north central Nigeria, alongside evidence of unsustainable trade (Awoyemi 2021, Williams et al. 2021a, b); great reduction in abundance in Benin with only very small numbers recorded from road transect surveys in 2019 (C. Dabone in litt. 2022); rapid declines in southwest Burkina Faso and near disappearance from Ouagadougou since 2010 (Ogada and Buij 2011, Ogada et al. 2016); and rapid declines in Mali and Niger (Thiollay 2006a, Ogada et al. 2016). In central Africa rapid declines were recorded from Cameroon between 1973 and 2000 (Thiollay 2001), but further declines were not apparent in surveys between 2006-09 (Ogada and Buij 2011). A minimum of 20,000 individuals was estimated in the 1990s for the Lake Chad basin, overlapping Chad, Cameroon and Niger (Scholte 1998). There is no direct trend information aside from the rapid decline for the Cameroon portion of this, but the species was still one of the commonest raptors using the floodplain (Buij and Croes 2013). Little recent information is available for Central African Republic, where it was at least common in parts in the 1990s (Ogada and Buij 2011), or from Democratic Republic of Congo, although there are recent records for the latter (eBird 2022).
In East Africa trends in Uganda are difficult to detect owing to strong annual variations (Pomeroy et al. 2012), but 2007-10 road survey data show large declines in comparison with data from 1967-68 (Ogada and Buij 2011). In Kenya steep declines have been reported (Virani et al. 2011, Ogada et al. 2016). Declines are also evident in at least parts of Tanzania, particularly rapidly in Nyerere National Park (C. Kendall in litt. 2022). In Ethiopia it is still widespread (Buechley et al. 2021) and seemingly common (e.g. most abundant species in a study of an urban area in 2018 [Tsegay et al. 2019] and mean abundance of 216±40 at Addis Ababa abattoirs in 2019-20 [Teklemariam and Afework 2021]) and is strongly associated with human settlements (Thompson et al. 2020, Buechley et al. 2021), but no trend information is available (Ogada and Buij 2011). The species is likely still present in southernmost Eritrea, given recent records from the border with Ethiopia (eBird 2022). A population persists in northwestern Somalia around Hargiesa and Burco town (Ogada and Buij 2011, eBird 2022). There are recent records from eastern Sudan in Al Dinder National Park (eBird 2022), but no further information. Hooded Vultures still appear widespread in South Sudan (eBird 2022) and were reported to still be very common in Juba (Ogada and Buij 2011).
In Botswana road transects between 1991-1995 found it to be strongly tied to protected areas (Herremans and Herremans-Tonnoeyr 2000), and it may have declined considerably in the wider landscape prior to this time but there is no data (Ogada and Buij 2011). In Malawi the species has suffered local declines, disappearing from Lengwe National Park in the early 2000s, but was considered still fairly common in the north in the mid 2000s (Ogada and Buij 2011). Only an estimated 50 pairs remain in Mozambique, where it was formerly widespread, and in Namibia it is considered a rare breeder: there is no trend information (Ogada and Buij 2011, Brown and Simmons 2015, Brown et al. 2017). In Zambia it is found almost throughout though not in large numbers, while it is only common along the Zambezi in Zimbabwe (Ogada and Buij 2011). There is little information for Angola. where it is certainly still present (Ogada and Buij 2011, eBird 2022).
Within South Africa and Eswatini there are estimated to be only 100-200 mature individuals (Taylor et al. 2015). The range appears to have contracted between the two atlas periods and abundance had declined in 67% of atlas squares where it was recorded in each atlas (Ogada and Buij 2011). Most are now concentrated around the Greater Kruger National Park (Thompson et al. 2020).
Overall, the area encompassed by the range (minimum convex polygon) is estimated at 22,500,000 km2.
The species is often associated with human settlements north of the Equator, but is also found in open grassland, forest edge, wooded savanna, desert and along coasts; and tends to occur at higher densities in areas where populations of larger Gyps vultures are low or nonexistent (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001. K. Bilstein in litt. 2016). Home range size appears closely correlated with commensal breeding, which is connected to human tolerance to vultures (Thompson et al. 2020, Buechley et al. 2021). It occurs up to 4,000 m, but is most numerous below 1,800 m. It feeds mainly on carrion, but also takes insects (and will congregate in large numbers during insect emergences [Smalley 2016]).
In West Africa and Kenya it breeds throughout the year, but especially from November to July. Breeding in north-east Africa occurs mainly in October-June, with birds in southern Africa tending to breed in May-December. It is an arboreal nester, favouring Ceiba pentandra in Senegal (B. Bargain in litt. 2016), and lays a clutch of one egg. Its incubation period lasts 46-54 days, followed by a fledging period of 80-130 days. Young are dependent on their parents for a further 3-4 months after fledging (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Measurements of nesting success at the Olifants River Private Nature Reserve, South Africa showed, success of 0.44-0.89 offspring per pair per year in 2013 and 0.50-0.67 offspring per pair per year in 2014 (Monadjem et al. 2016). Age at first breeding is considered on average to fall between four and five years (Mundy et al.1992, D. Ogada in litt. 2022, J. Parry-Jones per W. Godwin in litt. 2022, W. Goodwin in litt. 2022) while the oldest individual known is currently 38 years old in captivity (A. Knutson per D. Ogada. in litt. 2022).
Major threats to this species include non-targeted poisoning, capture for traditional medicine and bushmeat (McKean et al. 2013), and direct persecution (Ogada and Buij 2011, Ogada et al. 2016, Henriques 2020). In Nigeria, a survey of medicinal traders found that Hooded Vulture was the most commonly traded species of vulture, with 90% of all vulture parts traded belonging to the species (Saidu and Buij 2013, Williams et al. 2021a), and both deliberate and unintentional poisoning remains on the increase despite general local awareness (Owolabi et al. 2020). Across West and central Africa the species is one of the most heavily traded, with an estimated 5,850-8,772 individuals traded over a six-year period in West Africa (Buij et al. 2016). Hooded Vulture meat is reportedly sold as chicken in some places (Ogada and Buij 2011, Buij et al. 2016). Trade for vulture parts has almost completely extirpated vultures from parts of their range, for example in Edo State, southern Nigeria (Nosazeogie et al. 2018). In the world's largest vulture poisoning incident to date, more than 2,000 vultures, most of which were Hooded Vultures, were killed in Guinea Bissau at the beginning of 2020, believed to have been driven by demand for body parts for belief-based use (BirdLife International 2020, Henriques et al. 2020). It now appears that there is considerable cross-border trade in vulture parts, with poisoning incidents also recently noted in the Gambia as well as further incidents in Guinea Bissau (D. Ogada in litt. 2022b). Intentional poisoning of vultures may be carried out in some areas by poachers in order to hide the locations of their kills. In 2018 seven Hooded Vultures were killed at an elephant carcass in Mozambique that had been laced with carbofuran by a poacher (SSC 2018), and in 2019 28 Hooded Vultures were killed at three poisoned elephant carcasses in Botswana (BirdGuides 2019). In Senegal vultures receive a form of cultural protection from such killing because they are the totem for some families (B. Bargain in litt. 2016).
Secondary poisoning with pesticides at livestock baits being used to poison mammalian predators and feral dogs is also an issue in East Africa (Otieno et al. 2010, C. Kendall in litt. 2012, Roxburgh and McDougall 2012) and parts of West Africa (Mullié et al. 2017). Despite diclofenac being found on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania (BirdLife International 2008) and marketed, it is not thought that this has been directly affecting the species significantly.
Declines have also been attributed to land conversion through development and improvements to abattoir hygiene and rubbish disposal in some areas (Ogada and Buij 2011), and, in Senegal, a decline in the number of their favourite nesting tree species (B. Bargain in litt. 2016, Mullié et al. 2017). The species may also be threatened by avian influenza (H5N1), from which it appears to suffer some mortality and which it probably acquires from feeding on discarded dead poultry (Ducatez et al. 2007), although this is not well substantiated (C. Kendall in litt. 2016). In Burkina Faso, the main anthropogenic threats to reproductive output are poaching of eggs, chicks and collection of nesting materials and pruning of nest trees (Dabone et al. 2019). According to questionnaires conducted primarily with abattoir workers in Uganda, electrocution and collision with power lines may be a significant cause of mortality (Magin 2017).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendices I & II, Raptors MOU Category 1. The species is covered by a Multi-species Action Plan (MsAP) for the conservation of African-Eurasian vultures (Botha et al. 2017). This widespread species occurs in a large number of protected areas. The species is being surveyed in parts of its range, including The Gambia, Tanzania, Kenya, and South Africa with plans for larger scale monitoring. Movement studies have been undertaken in several countries to assess ranging behavior and impact of commensalism on range size (C. Barlow in litt. 2016, C. Kendall in litt. 2016). The Hawk Conservancy along with the Endangered Wildlife Trust are currently working on providing training and equipment for anti-poisoning teams so that field staff will have the skills and equipment to respond to and neutralise poisoned carcasses (C. Murn in litt. 2016). It is listed as Critically Endangered in the Eskom Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Allan 2015), and Endangered in Namibia and Uganda (Brown and Simmons 2015, WCS 2016).
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
As part of the Multi-species Action Plan for African-Eurasian Vultures, over 120 key actions were put forward (Botha et al. 2017). Of these, 117 are considered relevant to African species. Full details for these can be found in Table 6 of Botha et al. (2017), but those actions considered 'Essential' by Botha et al. (2017) are presented here.
The two objectives with the most essential actions are to address knowledge gaps, and to reduce vulture unintentional mortality caused by the hunting of vertebrates. Botha et al. (2017) say that the essential actions when trying to address knowledge gaps are to monitor the population sizes, distributions and trends; conduct a study to put a value on the ecosystem services and eco-tourism benefits vultures provide; and develop criteria for Vulture Safe Zones and implement these throughout the range states of the MsAP. To address the objective to reduce unintentional vulture mortality, Botha et al. (2017) suggest an overall analysis of poisoning's role in human-wildlife conflict, focusing on vultures; further awareness campaigns; training of staff to rapidly respond to poisoning incidents; and review and enforce penalties for wildlife poisoning, and if necessary introduce new penalties.
In order to combat the threats from illegal trade and sentinel poisoning awareness and engagement programmes with stakeholders and training of rapid response units, respectively, have been proposed as essential actions (Botha et al. 2017; Murn and Botha 2018). There is potential for communal conservancies to raise awareness of vulture conservation in their constituencies (Craig et al. 2018). The threats from infrastructure (collisions and electrocution) have similar essential actions, which are to conduct sensitivity mapping exercises to identify key regions; and promoting CMS guidelines to reduce mortality due to these threats (Botha et al. 2017).
Finally, Botha et al. (2017) recommend as an essential action the establishment of a framework to effectively implement the MsAP, including both global and regional coordination units, which may be key to implementing not only these other essential actions, but as many of the other high and medium priority actions laid out in the action plan.
67-70 cm Small, scruffy-looking, mostly brown vulture, with long thin bill, bare crown, face and foreneck, conspicuous ear-holes, and downy nape and hindneck. Perches hunched with wings drooping. Sexes alike. Juvenile usually with face pale blue and hood of short down dark brown rather than beige. Similar spp N. monachus is smaller and finer-billed compared to Torgos tracheliotus. Juvenile similar to juvenile Neophron percnopterus, but tail not pointed and head has down rather than contour feathering.
Text account compilers
Rotton, H., Haskell, L., Martin, R.
Anthony, A., Ashpole, J, Asso, A.A., Awoyemi, S.M., Bargain, B., Barlow, C., Bildstein, K., Brouwer, J., Butchart, S., Dabone, C., Ekstrom, J., Goded, S., Goodwin, W., Hall, P., Henriques, M., Kendall, C., Koné, N.A., Mhlanga, W., Mundy, P., Murn, C., Rainey, H., Salewski, V., Symes, A., Taylor, J., Thompson, L.J., Westrip, J.R.S. & Wheatley, H.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Necrosyrtes monachus. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/hooded-vulture-necrosyrtes-monachus on 02/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 02/06/2023.