The plight of African vultures has already reached the international conservation agenda, with several species declining rapidly, up to the point that the IUCN decided to downgrade the conservations status of 6 species, including 4 that became critically endangered.
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 to kill elephant and lions. In the last few years many cases of massive poisoning of vultures have been reported, mostly in eastern and southern Africa.
It seems now that this threat continues unabated, as in the last few days two new poison incidents came to light:
In Zimbabwe, at least 94 critically endangered white-backed vultures have been found dead after feeding on a poisoned elephant carcass in Gonarezhou, along the country’s border with Mozambique (see photo). The elephant – whose tusks had been removed – was a victim of poaching and had been poisoned by watermelon laced with what is suspected to be Temik, a carbamate pesticide.
Late last month Raptors Botswana reported another poisoning case in the Okavango Delta where 1 lappet-faced, 3 white-backed and 2 white-headed vultures were killed, together with wild dogs. Another lappet-faced vulture was recovered alive and is now in rehabilitation, and will be released back to the wild soon.
The VCF and its partners have been working on anti-poisoning activities, campaigns and programmes in Europe and Africa, and we will continue to do so to try to help vultures worldwide. Poison received a lot of attention in the recently developed Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan (MsAP), prepared by VCF and other partners in the framework of the Convention for the Migratory Species, and that includes all African vulture species. The Vulture MsAP will hopefully be approved by all signatory states in the next Conference of the Parties this fall, and will then be a significant tool to address these massive poisoning incidents and therefore revert the continuing decline of African vultures.
Photo: Hugo van der Westhuizen