June has seen a spate of vulture poisoning incidents in KwaZulu-Natal, with 30 vultures being poisoned in under a week. With Somkhanda’s remarkable recovery as a protected area over the past several years comes natural systems such as the return of vulture populations – feeding on the increased populations of wildlife. Unfortunately, this increased number of birds has resulted in the area being a target for poisoning.
On the 12th of June this year, protocols for vulture poisoning incidents were initiated immediately after the reports came in of several dead birds being found. Tragically, 10 Critically Endangered African White-backed Vultures were found dead at the scene. An extensive ground and air sweep resulted in an additional 5 carcasses being recovered, as well as four individuals, alive, but struggling to survive. Immediate first aid treatment was administered, with the vets and ground team working tirelessly to save the survivors. Two birds responded well but, unfortunately, two individuals died shortly afterwards. The two survivors were transported to a registered rehabilitation facility for further treatment, where they are now recovering well.
Vultures throughout Africa are specifically targeted for their use in the traditional medicine trade. In addition, to fuel the demand for animal body parts – for example lion bones, leopard skins & vulture parts – poachers lace carcasses with poison. Catastrophic losses occurred in Botswana this week, with over 500 vulture mortalities – a major setback for vulture conservation.
“Since the unfortunate event we have worked closely with local leaders, traditional healers and the wider community to dispel the value of vulture body parts as having clairvoyant properties. We are making great strides and believe we can use this incident as an opportunity to inform people of the critical role vultures play in our ecosystems” said Dr Roelie Kloppers from WILDLANDS, a program of the WILDRUST.
‘The extinction of vultures, arguably nature’s most important scavengers, would result in dire ecological, economic and human costs as without vultures, diseases such as rabies and anthrax would run rampant as carcasses are left to fester in the environment’, said Wildlife ACT and Somkhanda Senior Monitor, Pippa Orpen.
WILDLANDS, a programme of WILDTRUST, the Emvokweni Community Trust, the Gumbi community & Wildlife ACT work closely together to ensure that Somkhanda’s endangered species are closely monitored and protected.
Wildlife ACT – Focused Conservation