The latest incident on a now sadly regular flow of occurrences of mass poisoning of vultures in Africa surfaced recently, thanks to Darcy Ogada from the Peregrine Fund.
The latest incident happened on 6 January on a government-owned ranch called ADC Mutara in Laikipia County, north central Kenya. After losing 4 cows to a lion attack, local herders poisoned 3 cow carcasses – as a result at least 32 White-backed and Rueppell's vultures and 1 Tawny Eagle were poisoned (see photos). There was no indication that any lions or hyenas died.
Most interestingly, two cows were also poisoned due to grazing on grass that had been contaminated by either vulture vomit or faeces (see photo) – this just shows how deadly toxic these chemicals are and that poisoning should never be used as a retaliation measure. The poisoned carcasses were only burnt one week after the incident, so the number of victims is probably larger.
The plight of African vultures has reached the international conservation agenda, with several species declining rapidly, up to the point that the IUCN decided recently to downgrade the conservations status of 6 species, including 4 that became now critically endangered, including the Rueppel´s vulture.
One of the main factors leading to this decline is the widespread use of poison in the African continent, against predators, or sometimes used by poachers (see here). In the last few years many cases of massive poisoning of vultures have been reported, mostly in eastern and southern Africa.
Photos: D. Ogada & D. Wahome, The Peregrine Fund