It was with eagerness that I visited Namu in May of 2016. I boarded a car that left Shendam straight to Namu. I went there on their market day as suggested by some of the locals. On entering the market, I asked some few individuals some questions on vultures and I was told that it’s been many years when they saw live vultures. I was directed to where birds’ parts were sold and at a corner close to some butchers I came across dealers dealing in Vulture parts. Seven young men and even a teenager selling Vulture parts and parts of other birds such as the secretary bird, hammer-kops, pea cocks etc. I was so amazed by the sight of the dead Vultures and their parts.
I requested to have a video interview with some of the dealers and three of them couldn’t grant me the permission as they were scared. They seemed to suspected me as some one close to government’s law enforcement agencies. It took some effort of smiles and convincing asurances that I was a researcher working on how traditional medicine practitioners used animals’ parts in medicine, before a young man of about twenty five years of age accepted that I interviewed him on camera. Others later thought that the interview session was to publicise and help to advertise their work hence they agreed and also asked me to interview them.
I was told the different prices of Vulture parts. I saw a complete dead hooded vulture, White-backed Vulture and other parts such as the heads, eyes, legs wings and hearts of different Vultures. I saw different people of different ages and status patronising the Vulture dealers. A complete Vulture had a cost range of one hundred and fifty thousand naira (N150,000) to three hundred thousand naira (N300,000). Vulture heads with its two eyes intact cost fifty to eighty thousand naira depending on the different dealers and bargaining power of the person buying. I witnessed the bargaining and buying of a Vulture head and legs. Some one came and bought just the Vulture feather. Some women were there looking for the vulture eggs which were not found but the dealer promised to bring one for them by next market day but at good price.
My interview with them revealed that most of them were introduced in to the trades in vulture parts by their parents and they were so happy and proud to do it. They depend on the sales to support their families. Many politicians, gamblers and adventurers visited them to purchase vulture parts for traditional medicine that will give them lucks and favour in their pursuits as one of them told me. Most of the dealers believed that vulture eyes can make a person to know what shall happen with him or his business in future. They thought the keen eye sight of vultures can be transferred to human when mixed with some traditional medicine that was why some politicians directly or indirectly contacted them for the parts. They believed that different sicknesses and diseases can be cured also by the the vultures’ organs such as hearts, crop, liver etc.
Most of the vultures were brought from the far Northern Nigerian states such as Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Nasarawa state and Borno. A dealer told me that they can also sell vulture parts gotten from Plateau state to those Northern states. Some of the dealers have connections with other dealers that have links with other dealers in other African countries such as Binin Republic, Niger republic, Cameroon, Guinea, Mali and Chad.
After I left the market I went round different slaughter points and dumping sites in search of life vultures but to no success. I then realised that, it’s easy to find dead Vultures than live vultures in most African communities in general and Nigeria in particular. It’s truly not surprising that vultures seems to have disappeared in many Nigerian communities. Nigeria which used to have six different species of vultures have lost that pride to extinction caused mainly by trades in vulture parts. Today, only Hooded Vulture and White-backed Vulture are seen in their increasingly reducing numbers.