Four White-backed Vultures perched on a dead tree branch in a grassy plain.

Munir Virani

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Potential Extinction of Raptor Species

June 22, 2023, Boise, ID – A new study spearheaded by The Peregrine Fund warns of potential extinction of raptor species, a scenario that would negatively impact the ecosystems and human cultures. “We examined Red List data for critically endangered raptor species. These birds have a very high chance of going extinct. Our goal was to highlight the plight of these species while identifying the reasons for their imperiled status, the most important countries for their conservation, and the conservation actions needed for their persistence, says Dr. Christopher J. W. McClure, Executive Vice President of Science and Conservation at The Peregrine Fund.

McClure goes on to explain, “The 17 critically endangered raptor species form two groups—Accipitrid vultures and species with small populations. Accipitrid vultures are the vultures that occupy Africa, Europe, and Asia. The principal cause of declines for Accipitrid vultures is poisoning. The small population species were most threatened by agriculture. Countries in Africa and south Asia were hotspots of critically endangered raptors”. 

The research also shows that conservation action listed for the most species was ‘‘education and awareness’’ followed by ‘‘land protection’’ and ‘‘law and policy.’’ McClure also warns that “The Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures should be implemented to prevent extinction of Accipitrid vultures”. He suggests that species with small populations are generally isolated and must be managed individually. 

The current rate of extinction rivals those of other mass extinction events. Over the past 500 years more birds are known to have gone extinct (140 species) than any other group of vertebrates. Thus, the sixth mass extinction is especially notable for bird conservationists. The loss of such biodiversity will likely have major consequences for human and ecosystem health. Raptors are often used as indicators of environmental health and provide cultural and ecosystem services which is why concern over these species should be taken seriously.

The Journal of Raptor Research paper is titled, The World’s Most Imperiled Raptors Present Substantial Conservation Challenges and was co-authored by Christopher J. W. McClure, Ralph Buij, Russell Thorstrom, and F. Hernan Vargas of The Peregrine Fund along with Munir Z. Virani of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund.

Read the publication in its entirety here.