Cape Town - When scientists attached tracking devices to 21 endangered bearded vultures in the Drakensberg, they did not expect that almost half the birds would be killed by poison and power lines during their study.
Of the 10 dead birds, one was killed by an electric power line and the other nine by eating carcasses laced with poison.
Sonja Krüger, lead author of the study, which was published in the ornithological journal Condor this month, said the poisons were mainly pesticides that farmers had purposely put on animal carcasses to kill livestock predators such as jackal.
“Farmers do have a predator problem, but there are other ways of dealing with it. Poison is unfortunately the quick and easy way. The birds were feeding on the same carcasses left to kill jackal.”
The other killer is power lines. All new lines have to be “raptor-friendly” with insulators on top of poles where birds may land, and with “flappers” on the lines to make them more visible. However, most of the old lines are not raptor-friendly, and there is an urgent need to make them so.