Preserving and conserving the Cape Vulture

Eagle Encounters worked in collaboration with Cape Nature to rescue the Cape Vulture found in Bellville in February. The bird was released back into the wild a week ago. pic: Eagle Encounters

Eagle Encounters worked in collaboration with Cape Nature to rescue the Cape Vulture found in Bellville in February. The bird was released back into the wild a week ago. pic: Eagle Encounters

Published Mar 10, 2024


Cape Town - Conservation experts are continuing to preserve and protect endangered species such as the Cape vulture, also known as the Kransaasvoël from those believing it poses a threat to farms and from being used for muti.

A young Cape vulture was rescued from the grounds in Riesling Park, Oude Westhof, Bellville on February 26.

It was released back into the wild at a privately owned and managed vulture restaurant, just north of the De Hoop Nature Reserve breeding colony on March 2, by Eagle Encounters and CapeNature.

The young bird was covered in mites and was treated with an avian mite spray to remove it.

Petro van Rhyn of CapeNature said once it was determined to be ready for release back to the wild, it was rung by Kevin Shaw, a retired CapeNature ornithologist, to ensure it could be individually identified and monitored for the rest of its life.

The bird was treated at Eagle Encounters, a specialist CapeNature-permitted raptor rehabilitation facility.

Van Rhyn explained the species was at risk of being attacked for fear that it may harm livestock or used for muti and that even infrastructure such as electrical cables posed a threat. She said the birds found in the province were commonly known as Cape vultures of the Potberg mountains.

“They are not just ecological linchpins but also cultural symbols in parts of southern Africa,” Van Rhyn added.

“Vultures typically have longrange movements which complicates their conservation. The main threats to vultures are poisoning (deliberate or accidental), collisions with power lines, and changes in land use patterns and some livestock farming practices.

“Vultures are also occasionally targeted for the muti trade and sometimes persecuted by farmers who believe they prey on live sheep. Their survival thus relies on the collaborative efforts of government, conservation organisations, and local communities, ensuring that the vultures continue to soar for generations to come.”

She said the population increase at the breeding colony at De Hoop Nature Reserve was due to the support of the neighbouring farmers who sought to protect the species. She said conservation was important because vultures had a unique place in the ecosystem and culture of southern Africa.

“Cape vultures are predominantly found in southern Africa. Their adaptable nature allows them to thrive in diverse landscapes, from mountains to savannas,” Van Rhyn said.

“Vultures play a very important ecological role in the environment. Through their scavenging feeding behaviour, they clean up the carcasses of dead animals. This reduces the risk of disease outbreaks of pathogens which can be transmitted by decaying or infected carcasses.”

Tracy Chalmers, CEO of Eagle Encounters, said the organisation works tirelessly to help such species.

“We have been serving this community for almost 23 years. During this time, we have rescued over 5 000 birds and animals, and released almost 3000 back into the wild,” she said.

“We have fostered good working relationships with CapeNature, the Department of Agriculture, various veterinarians and a network of other wildlife organisations, for the betterment of our precious wildlife heritage.”

Scientists and researchers from across the world were hosted this week by the Kruger National Park (KNP) to be part of the 21st Annual Savanna Science Network Meeting in Skukuza.

SANParks acting general manager of the Savanna Research Unit, Cathy Greaver, said among topical issues they covered were studying ecological patterns, ecological processes (erosion, predation, plant recruitment, fire, disease, decomposition), cultural heritage, tourism, human wildlife conflict and co-existence as well as the wildlife economy and wildlife crime.

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