Vulture Programme

The role Vultures play in our environment is not fully valued and appreciated. These incredible scavengers are amazingly efficient at disposing of rotting carcasses. Without them, these carcasses would lie around for weeks resulting in a build-up of extremely harmful diseases and bacteria such as anthrax, botulism and rabies which would soon have an impact not only on our wildlife but on humans populations too.

Due to their wide-ranging habits most Vulture species are exposed to a multitude of threats. These include poisoning, habitat change and loss, population fragmentation, limited food availability, human disturbance and electricity infrastructure collisions and electrocutions. Of the 6 true Vultures occurring in South Africa all are now classified as either Critically Endangered or Endangered. All of these species have experienced major declines in recent times and in many areas up to 90% of the breeding populations have been wiped out.

Wildlife ACT is a long standing and instrumental partner of the Zululand Vulture Project and Project Vulture. Through our Vulture Conservation Programme our strategy is to stabilise and then increase the breeding population of Vultures in KZN, and South Africa. Our work is centred around better understanding these birds’ fine-scale habits through the development and implementation of tracking technologies; identifying and swiftly responding to poisoning events with qualified personnel; working towards reducing the persecution of Vultures (both intentional and unintentional), reducing the demand for Vulture parts in the traditional medicine sector, and capacitating more personnel to help support Vulture conservation in the region.

Conservation of Vultures requires cooperation between state, private and communal entities, working across provincial, national and continental borders. Wildlife ACT welcomes large-scale collaboration and is proud of the success we have had with the novel tracking technologies we use to monitor these remarkable birds.

During the early phases of the Zululand Vulture Project, we set out to determine the detailed movement patterns and habits of the Vulture species and populations breeding in the province. To achieve this, 98 GPS backpacks have been deployed, over 207 patagial tags or rings fitted, and we have carried out 59 nest surveys to date. This monitoring and information-gathering has resulted in extremely valuable findings and has already answered several research questions – though there is still much for us to learn.

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