Poisoning fears as more dead vultures are found in Zululand
The latest discovery takes the number of dead vultures to 20 in two weeks.
Among the birds killed many are the critically endangered African Whiteback vulture.
Brent Coverdale, animal, mammal and bird scientist at Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said their investigations revealed that the birds were to be used for traditional medicine.
“The poisoning of animals has a devastating effect, as it is indiscriminate and could kill many animals in one go. Last year, up to 87 vultures were killed in one poisoning event. It is highly concerning,” Coverdale said.
He said they searched for surviving vultures by helicopter and on the ground.
A statement released by the Zululand Vulture Project, a partnership between Wildlife Act and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said poisoning vultures was one of the biggest threats facing the bird.
The project’s members have been trained to respond quickly to poisoning incidents to limit the damage done and to secure the scene for investigations.
Kate Webster, from Vulpro, a non-governmental organisation that helps with the rehabilitation of vultures, explained that vultures were targeted for muthi due to their good eyesight, which is eight times better than that of humans.
This and the belief that they could see into the future and predict lottery numbers meant they were targeted.
“Another reason is that they could act as a warning signal to rangers and other people that there is a carcass in the area,” she said.
She described vultures as the “vacuum cleaners of the Earth” because they clean carcasses and have strong stomach acids that digest flesh containing diseases.