Pesticide abuse and bird poisoning

Birds are among the most cardinal indicators of ecosystem health, interacting with several parameters at ecosystem level. During planting season, birds are solely considered as pests as they can clear out a newly planted small-scale field within an hour. Once the the crops have germinated, birds feed on insect pests that attack these seedlings. However, once lethal pesticides are introduced to kill these insect pests, birds eat them and die. This generally increases the number of insect pests and makes farmers apply more of the pesticide.

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Organophosphates form one of the most common groups of agricultural pesticides. Originally developed in Germany, these chemicals have been modified over the years by various pharmaceuticals. these chemicals are very effective yet extremely toxic to several taxonomic groupings including mammals, birds, insects and reptiles. These chemicals enter the body through ingestion, inhalation or contact with skin. They then attack the nervous system by  inhibiting a neurotransmitter that carries signals between nerves and muscles. Victims of Organophosphate poisoning typically die because they cannot breathe. As a result of its acutely lethal nature this group of chemicals has been banned in most Countries with exception of a few including Zambia. Common Organophosphates on the Zambian Market include; Endosulfan, Monocrotophos, Nagphos, Phoskill, Multilaxin and Ciltara.

Current Trends

Over the past years, several bird species have been victims of poisoning using agricultural chemicals including critically endangered species (CR)  like the Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos), White-headed Vulture(Trigonopceps occipitalis)  White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) and Ruppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppellii) as well as endangered species such as the Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum),

From April 2013 , BWZ has documented Vulture poisoning incidents and the trend is increasing. A total of 1337 Vultures have been poisoned from 2013 to date, as recorded by BWZ from data collected across the country and reported by bird guides. In addition to that, about 50 Grey Crowned Cranes have been recorded as victims of poisoing of the past year. Frurthermore, about 12560 insectivorous birds were recorded as Casualties of Organophosophate poisoning in Chisamba Important Bird Area (IBA) in November 2015. Only 500 Vulture deaths have been confirmed to be as a result of organophosphate poisoning whilst that of the 50 Grey Crowned Cranes is another confirmed case of organophosphate poisoning. Read more about this incident at;

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