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Championing birds in Nigeria: Akinleye Oyegbami launches Osogbo Bird Conservation Project

Updated: May 26

23 May, 2024

Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami helps students in Osogbo, Nigeria, spot a bird. Photo courtesy of Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami.


West Africa is one of the richest regions of the world in human languages, with over 520 languages spoken in Nigeria alone. With nearly 230 million inhabitants, Nigeria has the highest population in Africa and is the sixth most populous country in the world, despite its smaller size compared to more populous countries such as China, India, and the United States.

The Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus), shown here with a nest he is building, is an example of a beautiful and fascinating bird that is familiar to many residents of West Africa. Photo by Nico Arcilla.


Nearly half a billion people live in West Africa, a region where the human population has quintupled and the conversion of natural habitats to human-dominated lands has doubled in recent decades. While West Africa is exceptionally rich in biodiversity, iconic African wildlife such as elephants, giraffes, and lions are increasingly threatened and endangered, as are many endemic African birds, such as grey parrots, crowned cranes, and many vultures and other raptors.

Velvet-mantled Drongo (Dicrurus modestus). Photo by Francesco Veronesi from Italy, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


At the same time, as remaining wildlife in West Africa is increasingly confined to small protected areas, West African residents are increasingly urban and distanced from the beautiful animals and landscapes for which Africa is famous around the world. To meet these challenges, Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami is using outreach and education to raise awareness of bird conservation needs in Osun State, Nigeria.

Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami works with students to identify a drongo they have spotted. Photo courtesy of Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami.


IBCP is delighted to support Akinleye’s bird conservation and education efforts in secondary schools in Osogbo, Nigeria. To date, Akinleye has engaged a total of 319 students and 35 teachers and at three Osogbo secondary schools: Kings and Queens Academy, Future Links School, and Obaloluwa College. He has also assisted each school in establishing a bird club.

Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami poses with student and teacher members of a newly established bird club. Photo courtesy of Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami.


During conservation education events on school assembly grounds, Akinleye distributed information and supplies to identify and survey birds and provided guidance on bird identification and survey methods. Bird conservation materials highlighted the critical roles of birds, and especially critically endangered Hooded Vultures, in Nigerian ecosystems.

Grey-headed kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala). Photo by Grzegorz Walczak.


Each participating school received three pairs of binoculars and one copy of the field guide, Bird of Western Africa, all sourced from the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Jos, Plateau State. Questionnaire interviews were conducted before and after conservation education sessions to assess participant understanding of bird conservation. Results showed the education events led to an increase in awareness and a positive attitude towards bird conservation among both students and teachers.

After conservation education, 75-90% of participants reported their support for bird conservation. Chart courtesy of Akinleye Isaac Oyegbami.


Educational events were followed by the establishment of a bird clubs at each school and field expeditions to survey birds, which were arranged with the participation of students and their teachers. From October to December 2023, participants conducted bird surveys in Osogbo, empowering students to raise awareness to support bird conservation efforts.

The Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis) was one of dozens of local bird species identified by students in Osogbo, Nigeria. Photo by Nico Arcilla.


Together with Mary Adeyinka, a master’s graduate of APLORI, Akinleye led field surveys of Osogbo bird species in both residential and natural areas. Participants visited locations such as the Osun Osogbo Sacred Forest, as well as residential areas within the city. Bird data from these areas were recorded using the BirdLasser App, and Akinleye produced a bird list for each location visited, documenting up to 45 species in a single area.

A Bronze Mannikin (Spermestes cucullata) guards his nest. Photo by Nico Arcilla.


Akinleye’s next steps will include expanding his efforts to more secondary schools within Osogbo and beyond, while incorporating a focused vulture conservation initiative. Conducting community conservation education will raise awareness about vultures’ significance in Nigerian ecosystems and the need to protect them.

The Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus) was another of dozens of local bird species identified by students in Osogbo, Nigeria. Photo by Nico Arcilla.


Project participants will continue to carry out field surveys and train students and their teachers in bird identification. Thanks to Akinleye’s leadership, hundreds of Nigerian students are learning the language of birds. We congratulate Africa’s newest bird champions on their efforts and wish them every success in their continuing endeavors to protect and celebrate African birds!

The Vinaceous Dove (Streptopelia vinacea) was another of dozens of local bird species identified by students in Osogbo, Nigeria. Photo by Nico Arcilla.

 

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