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Race to raise funds and save Africa vultures from extinction to be held in Israel

By Philip Mwakio | March 21st 2019

Kenya is making an inaugural appearance at the spectacular 'Champions of the Flyway', a global bird race to be held in Israel to raise funds targeted for conservation of the endangered African Vultures.

According to Nature Kenya Species and Sites Manager, Mr Paul Gacheru, Kenya which is participating at the event for the first time is represented by a team of staff from Nature Kenya and Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, BirdLife in German.

''Conservation of African vultures is this year’s race focus, with proceeds raised from the event earmarked for this cause,'' Gacheru said.

Vultures in Africa face mass poisoning, catastrophic and unprecedented, population decline and negative perceptions when in fact they are nature’s sanitary workers worthy of celebrations.

He said that a project in Africa, Kenya to be precise, has been chosen as the beneficiary of funds raised by the event.

The project – ‘Preventing Poisoning to Save Africa’s Vultures’ – is currently running in Maasai Mara in Narok County.

Under this project, Gacheru said that Nature Kenya, the Peregrine Fund, BirdLife International and the Kenya Birds of Prey Trust are involved in several initiatives aimed at reducing poisoning-related wildlife deaths.

Teams signed up for the race are also independently raising funds to help tackle the rapid and catastrophic decline of African vultures.

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Gacheru said that ‘Champions of the Flyway’ is an annual event organized by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (BirdLife in Israel) in partnership with BirdLife International.

''This year, seventeen teams of birders from across the globe will converge at Eilat, southern Israel, from 20th March to compete in a 24-hour race to identify bird species at a designated area (the whole of southern Israel).

The race will take place on March 26th with the team identifying the most bird species being crowned the 2019 ‘Champions of the Flyway’.

Nature Kenya’s Paul Gacheru, Rebecca Ikachoi and James Mutunga will be joining forces with NABU’s Dirk Wegener, Thomas Tennhardt and Werner Schroeder under team ‘Zeiss Vultures Unlimited’.

Gacheru said that the team is raising funds to support community awareness on the negative impacts of wildlife poisoning, create local community champions for vulture conservation and train KWS rangers and community members on rapid response to wildlife poisoning incidents in the Maasai Mara area.

They will be battling it out with teams of birders from the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US), Holland (the Netherlands), Italy, Canada, South Africa, Switzerland and Israel.

 The ‘Champions of the Flyway’ race is a culmination of an intensive fundraising exercise for the benefit of birds. Every year a conservation cause is chosen, in collaboration with BirdLife International, and all participating teams raise money and awareness for the chosen cause. 

The campaign has raised over $350,000 for bird conservation projects in Georgia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, Serbia and Croatia.

The 24-hour bird-spotting race also generates great drama and excitement and reaches out to a huge international audience with over one million people being exposed to the project annually via social media platforms.

 ‘Champions of the Flyway’ is the brainchild of the Israel Ornithological Center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Having an exciting bird race at the peak of migration to catch the attention of birders was the idea behind the event.

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