VULTURES AND THEIR CONSERVATION IN SOUTHERN AFRICA AND BEYONDPosted on the 13th April 2016
André Botha, the Manager of the Birds of Prey Programme at the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Co-chair of the IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group was the guest speaker at the BirdLife Overberg monthly meeting on Monday evening. This was an outstanding presentation, often controversial and emotionally charged. We clearly can not do justice by reporting on it, but give a summary with many images as well as some links to articles and reports further illustrating the problems facing vultures.
Some quick facts about Vultures: They belong to the Birds of Prey family/ Able to fly & glide/ Carnivorous/ Most are obligate scavengers/ All are Red Data species/ Important indicators of the health of the Environment/ Nine Species recorded in southern Africa
IUCN Red list status of the South Africa’s vultures
Cape Vulture: Vulnerable in 2011 and Endangered in 2015
White-backed Vulture: Near-threatened in 2011, Endangered in 2012 and Critically Endangered in 2015
Hooded Vulture: Endangered in 2011 and Critically Endangered in 2015
Lappet-faced Vulture: Vulnerable in 2011 and Endangered in 2015
White-headed Vulture: Vulnerable in 2012 and Critically Endangered in 2015
Bearded Vulture: Critically Endangered in southern Africa - Estimate 200 mature individuals.
Read more at: http://lowvelder.co.za/322323/a-vital-link-in-the-circle-of-life/
|Magnificent Lappet-faced Vulture|
Vulture poisoning – A re-emerging Threat? Examples:
In July 2013 54 Cape Griffons and 1 White-backed Vulture killed at Swartberg in the KZN Midlands. Aldicarb was used. The culprit admitted guilt and was fined R 15,000, of which 50% was suspended.
In December 2013 46 Cape Griffons were killed at Molteno in the Eastern Cape. Carbofuran was used and the culprit admitted guilt and was fined R 10,000.
|Mass poisoning in the Kruger National Park|
Andre also reported on recent poaching-related incidents & losses in southern Africa. Here are some shocking examples:
- Mozambique – 76 birds (June 2011)
- Zimbabwe – 174 birds (August 2012)
- Mkhuze, South Africa – 41 birds (Nov 2012)
-Mozambique – 84 birds (May 2013)
- Namibia – 400 - 500 birds (June 2013)
- Zambia – 302 birds (Oct 2013)
- Zimbabwe – 219 birds (Oct 2013)
- Imfolozi, South Africa – 37 birds (Nov 2013)
- Hoedspruit, Limpopo – 65 birds (May 2015)
- Botswana – 40 birds (June 2015)
- Mozambique – 42 birds (July 2015)
- Kruger National Park, South Africa – 44 birds (September 2015)
- LetabaRanch, South Africa – 22 birds (November 2015)
He also highlighted the problem of vulture being killed for the Muthi Trade: There was a successful prosecution at Mkhuze GR in Zululand when two poachers were arrested in January 2013. This was for killing seven White-backed Vultures and a Tawny Eagle. They received two years imprisonment, with no optional fine. Read more at these links:
Other lethal chemical substances such as Cataflam and Voltaren were also discussed. Read more at this link:
|Examples of posters|
Red List Species Reported Power-line Mortalities between 1996 and 31 August 2015 read like this:
Hooded Vulture: 2
Bearded Vulture: 4
Unknown Vultures: 50
Lappet-faced Vulture: 51
White-backed Vulture: 347
Cape Vulture: 656
Top ten species killed in this way in order of prevalence are the following: Blue Crane, Cape Vulture, White-backed Vulture, Ludwig's Bustard, White Stork, Grey-crowned Crane, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Hadeda Ibis and Spotted Eagle-Owl.
|Powerline mortalities - Images by Walter Neser|
On the positive side Andre discussed some mitigating measures being implimented. These include: Vulture Feeding Sites/ Mitigating measures to reduce electrocutions & collisions/ Captive breeding/ Monitoring & Research/ Aerial surveys/ Developing a tagging database/ Vulture tracking – read more here:
Developing Awareness material/ Poisoning Incident Intervention Training/ International Vulture Awareness Day (The first Saturday in September each year)
|Releasing a tagged Hooded Vulture|
|Example of where the bird travels|
In summary current critical issues and concerns include: Resurgence in poisoning incidents/ Lack of training and experience in managing incidents/ Veterinary medicines –Diclofenac in Europe/ Muthi-trade –Reduction in demand? Human health threats/ Poaching –related poisoning/ Eskom/ Wind- and other “Green” energy developments/ Appropriate research and monitoring/ Habitat loss and fragmentation/ Vultures should be a Priority –Nationally!
We are currently negotiating with Andre about the possibility of him visiting us in September (around International Vulture Awareness day) to do a specialised two day Birds of Prey identification course. Details to follow.
(All images provided by Andre Botha, unless indicated differently. - Ed.)