The Environment Society of Oman (ESO) has launched Phase 2 of the Egyptian Vulture Conservation Project. Sponsored by Shell Development Oman and with the support of Muscat Municipality, Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources, Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs and Office for Conservation of the Environment the project assess vulture populations in the Sultanate and implement conservation measures that counter the prominent threats to the species.
This phase will focus on extending the research study to cover the breeding territories of the species in different areas of Oman in the governorates of Al Batinah, Al Dhahirah, Ah Sharqiya, Dhofar and Muscat. Omar Al Sheikhly, an Iraqi wildlife expert with a wide regional experience, will act as the lead consultant for the project. ESO staff members started the survey by conducting a field visit to Al Amerat landfill, which has a high number of individuals, to observe the attitude and behavior of the birds.
According to Dr. Hamed Al Gheilani, ESO Outreach Manager and Mrs Maïa Sarrouf Willson, ESO Project Manager, “ESO initiated this project in early 2012 with the expectation of identifying just 12 pairs of Egyptian Vultures at their main feeding grounds on Masirah Island. Our research determined there were an estimated 65-80 breeding pairs, over four times the amount last estimated in the 1980s. The next phase of the project will identify potential nesting sites for Egyptian Vultures across the country and center itself on capacity building among ESO’s field assistants, a goal of central importance in raising public awareness of the species and their habitats through community engagement activities.”
Muna Al-Shukaili, Social Investment Advisor & Deputy External Affairs Manager at Shell Development Oman, said, “Our aim is to bring benefits to local communities and to reduce the human and industrial impact on the natural environment. In partnership with ESO, we have contributed to the continuation of a key research project for the Egyptian vulture, one of the world’s endangered species. Efforts to date have shown that Egyptian vulture populations are rising in Oman but we must continue to identify potential threats and collaborate to discover solutions that provide safe habitats and a lasting impact.”
The Egyptian Vulture is classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and reports suggest its worldwide population has declined by 90% in the last 50 years. The main threat to the species is inadvertent poisoning through veterinary drug Diclofenac, used as an anti-inflammatory treatment for livestock, which has since been phased out in Europe, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Worldwide vulture populations have increased following the ban. As this drug is not of use in Oman, the Omani vulture population have been relatively unaffected by these threats.
Through its program, ESO is currently working with its partners to determine the key habitats in which the birds can live with minimal disturbance.