Rescuing vultures from a wipe-out

By Time of article published Oct 15, 2014

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Pretoria - This is the time of year when vulture chicks fledge and start to test and develop their muscles and co-ordination for flight.

Unfortunately, due to their habitat being modified by people, they often find themselves in the type of trouble they would not naturally encounter.

Mandy Schroder, media and communication officer for The Vulture conservation Project (VulPro) said fences, power lines, dogs and urbanisation all spelt trouble for a young vulture.

They need large open areas to take off, so if they end up in a fenced area, garden, overgrown area or even an orchard, they become “grounded”.

“In addition, many of these fledglings are unaware of the dangers of power lines and either roost on them, which often leads to their electrocution, or fly into the overhead wires which often causes permanent and life-threatening injuries. If these birds are left unassisted, the situation spells certain death,” said Schroder.

Luckily, there is help for them if they are discovered in time. VulPro deals extensively with the rescue and rehabilitation of grounded, injured and poisoned vultures and raptors.

VulPro collects grounded vultures from all over the country, rehabilitates and releases them, with patagial (wing) tags for visual re-sightings, once back to full health. Schroder said they had the facilities, knowledge and passion to deal with just about any problem that vultures face. Experienced in captive breeding and hand raising vultures as well as rehabilitation, VulPro accepts vultures and large birds of prey of any age or health problem. “It is vital that grounded vultures are collected and assisted as quickly as possible, kept as quiet and relaxed as possible to ensure their best chance of survival.”

The staff at VulPro are on call 24 hours a day.

South Africa’s vulture numbers are dropping at an alarming rate in spite of the conservation methods put in place.

Power line collisions, agricultural poisonings, loss of habitat and safe food and poisonings by poachers have all had a horrific impact on the vulture population. Vultures mate for life and lay only one egg each season a year. Naturally, chances of a chick surviving to breeding age (seven years) are slim; in our modern world they become even smaller.

It’s becoming hard for a breeding pair to replace themselves in their lifetime, leading to a decline in the population. Losing an adult has even more devastating effects, as a chick with a single parent cannot survive, plus, the mate that loses a partner may not breed.

l Visit www.vulpro.com for more about VulPro.

Pretoria News

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