Private wildlife owners in Zululand launch campaign to protect vultures
Durban - Private wildlife owners launched the Zululand vulture safety campaign which coincided with International Vulture Awareness Day on Saturday.
The conservationists revealed that vultures were facing extinction due to poison found on carcasses.
Linda van den Heever, vulture project manager from Birdlife South Africa, said the campaign was to protect nine vulture species including a decline in white-backed vulture which has been regarded as critically endangered.
She said vultures were performing one of nature’s most important tasks.
She feared that with the extinction of vultures, diseases such as rabies and canine distemper could spread.
“Carcasses would be left to rot, attracting less specialised scavengers, such as jackals, rats and feral dogs.
Vultures gobble down unwanted food which hampers the ecosystem through its infectious bacteria,” she said.
Van den Heever said that considering the impact of habitat loss, electrocutions, collisions with man-made structures and direct or indirect poisoning, the harvesting of vultures for traditional medicine has become a serious threat to the environment.
Clive Vivier, owner of the Leopard Mountain Lodge, also the founder of the Zululand Important Bird and Biodiversity Area which stretches from Pongola to Isimangaliso Wetland Park in Mkhuze, said part of the campaign was also to persuade hunters to buy lead-free ammunition for hunting.
He said a mobile chat group was used to manage a feeding programme to ensure that carcasses and gut piles put out at so-called restaurants were lead and contaminant free.
“We ensure that water reservoirs are fitted with ‘escape’ ladders to prevent drownings and that lead-free ammunition is used for hunting and culling,” said Vivier
Meiring Prinsloo, manager at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve, said it was important to ensure the safety of vultures to keep the flora and fauna beautiful. His reserve has been declared a vulture safe zone.
“The birds clean the area after poachers have killed an animal. To contribute to the environment we need to look after nature surrounding us,” said Prinsloo.
Piet du Plessis, a hunter and also a manufacturer of lead-free ammunition said his toxic-free bullets would not inflict harm on vultures when feeding.
“Vultures are subjected to a range of threats, of which poisoning is the most significant. As a result, many species are plummeting towards extinction but the recent innovation will ensure the bird’s safety,” he said.
Musa Mntambo, spokesperson of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, said Ezemvelo has just recently completed an aerial survey of tree-nesting vulture areas in the province.
He said African white-backed and lappet-faced vultures have become locally extinct, which could be attributed directly to the spate of poisonings during the latter part of last year.
Mntambo said the intent of these poisonings was for the harvesting of vulture parts for traditional medicine.
“Ezemvelo is very concerned regarding the plight of our various vulture species in the province. They face a myriad threats of which lead poisoning is but one. Ezemvelo is very supportive of the initiative to move towards lead-free ammunition and, in fact, is pursuing such for implementation within our reserves in key vulture areas,” said Mntambo.