Conservation organisations Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Wildlife ACT this week confirmed the localised extinction of breeding White-Headed Vultures.
Nest surveys carried out across KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) shows the Lappet-Faced species– also known as nature’s ‘clean-up crew’ – is in crisis
Vulture crisis in KZN
Conservationists surveyed the key breeding grounds of the White-Backed species, Lappet-Faced species and White-Headed species as part of the province’s vulture conservation strategy.
As per the data, vultures in the province are exposed to “a wide variety of threats”, which include poisoning, human disturbance, and habitat degradation.
Researches say, however, the biggest threat is the poison used by poachers to kill vultures and “harvest their body parts for belief-based use and traditional medicines”.
Watch: Vulture conservation
Co-founder of Wildlife ACT, Chris Kelly, said challenges faced by vultures in South Africa “are becoming ever more tangible”.
“These recent results further highlight the severity of the current crisis we are witnessing.”
In addition, Brent Coverdale, Ezemvelo’s Animal Scientist, said the research team generated computer models to predict a suitable breeding habitat, and the model confirmed their worst fears.
“The species has become locally extinct. This means more than ever that the conservation interventions we are implementing need to be upscaled”.
Vulture species in South Africa
He said their focus would now be ” to ensure the other species do not follow the same fate.” There are currently six vulture species in South Africa:
- Necrosyrtes monachus
- Gyps africanus
- Trigonoceps occipitalis
- Gyps rueppellii
- Gyps coprotheres
- Torgos tracheliotos
All six species are classified as either Critically Endangered or Endangered.
Impact of extinction
The impact of extinction won’t only be felt by the animal kingdom, though. They play a critical role in protecting humans “from the ever-increasing global risk of disease transmission.”
“Without [their presence], carcasses – including livestock – will remain exposed and undecomposed in the environment for weeks”.
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