National 14.1.2016 12:09 pm

Africa’s vultures being decimated by poison

African vultures, whose population is decreasing. Pic: Lowvelder

African vultures, whose population is decreasing. Pic: Lowvelder

Between 2012 and 2014, 155 elephants and 2 044 vultures were killed in 11 poaching-related incidents in seven African countries.

Conservationists in Africa have raised the alarm about the increasing use of poisons in elephant poaching and its devastating effect on Africa’s endangered vultures.

According to a study released earlier this week in the conservation journal Oryx, ivory poachers have increasingly used poisons since 2012 to kill elephants or to contaminate their carcasses specifically to eliminate vultures, Lowvelder reported.

In October 2015, four species of African vultures were up-listed to critically endangered, and two species were up-listed to endangered status on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN’s) Red List. The increase in this newest threat now accounts for one-third of all vulture poisonings recorded since 1970.

“In April 2012 we held our first Africa-wide vulture meeting to address rapidly declining populations and this threat was not even mentioned. It has exploded in magnitude with the ongoing slaughter of elephants and currently represents the biggest cause of vulture mortality,” said Darcy Ogada, lead author of the study and The Peregrine Fund’s assistant director of Africa programs.

Between 2012 and 2014, 155 elephants and 2 044 vultures were killed in 11 poaching-related incidents in seven African countries. The number of vulture fatalities associated with each ivory poaching incident is more than 30 times that recorded in other poisoning incidents since 2012.

In September last year, 46 white-backed vultures as well as an elephant were killed in a poisoning incident in the northern parts of the Kruger National Park.

Chunks of meat were removed from various parts of the elephant’s carcass, and the poison Temik spread on the exposed areas. The vultures then descended on the carcass and as a result were poisoned.

In Limpopo, 65 vultures were found dead on a farm near the confluence of the Blyde and Olifants rivers in May last year. Sixty-four of those vultures were from globally endangered species.

According to the Oryx report, the dramatic upsurge in the use of poisons for poaching elephants represents exploitation of weak regulations and enforcement regarding the accessibility and misuse of toxic pesticides and other poisons.

“A significant part of the challenge is the fact that a range of chemicals are readily available and accessible to individuals with the intention to poison wildlife,” said Andre Botha of the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

“It seems that very little is done by authorities to monitor and enforce regulations and legislation in this regard,” he said.

Read More: African vultures vanishing

– Caxton News Service

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