Vultures are the big losers in the 2015 update of the IUCN red data list, announced today – out of the 40 bird species that are now classified as having a higher risk of extinction in the 2015 Red List, six are vultures.
Three of the vulture species - Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus,White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus and Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii,passed from globally Endangered to Critically Endangered, due recent declines in the continent, while the White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis went directly from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered. Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres and Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos transited from globally Vulnerable to globally Endangered
This comes after a number of leading vulture scientists published a paper documenting widespread declines in vulture populations across the African continent.
The main threats killing African vultures are indiscriminate poisonings due to the use of poisoned baits to kill elephant (for Ivory) or against predators, and the use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine – a recent scientific paper found that 29% of the vulture deaths recorded continent-wide could be attributed to this trade, most prevalent in West Africa. In the last few years at least ten massive vulture poisoning incidents have been recorded, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,500 vultures across six southern African countries –and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most cases go unreported, and it is thought that the uncontrolled and widespread use of poison across the continent will continue to play havoc with Africa’s vultures.
A sad day for Africa’s vultures – the VCF hopes at least that this change of status will now work as a rallying call for decision makers, protected area managers and conservationists to do more – much more – to save these magnificent animals.
(Photos below A. Botha & P. Hancock)