Vultures are a characteristic and important part of Africa’s ecosystems. As obligate scavengers, they play an important role in preventing the spread of disease, by quickly removing decomposing carcasses from the environment. Recent decades have seen an alarming decline in Africa’s vulture populations, with four of South Africa’s nine vulture species now regarded as Critically Endangered.
The reasons for the decline of Africa’s vultures are numerous and complex. Poachers kill great numbers of vultures by intentionally lacing poached animal carcasses with poison. Vultures are also vulnerable to secondary poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac, or unintentional poisoning through the ingestion of lead ammunition. Other threats include electrocution and/or collisions with power infrastructure, declining food availability, habitat loss and harvesting for belief-based use.
BirdLife South Africa is committed to the conservation of Africa’s vulture populations across all their range states, and have joined multiple stakeholders across the African continent in an effort to reverse this dramatic population declines. A collaborative proposal to the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in the USA has been successful. A selected team of researchers from countries across Africa (including representatives from BirdLife South Africa) will travel to Annapolis (USA) for four meetings over the course of two years, during which an impressive array of data tools and resources will be placed at their disposal to develop tools for the conservation of Africa’s vultures. The first meeting will take place in October 2017.