African Vultures: The By-Product of Poaching
‘Rhino and elephant poachers are deliberately poisoning the carcasses to remove the vultures from the skies so they do not alert the rangers of the poaching incident,’ Kerri Wolter, the founder of VulPro, explains.
‘We are now being faced with an African vulture crisis as they are being decimated at an alarming rate. Poisoning has become the number one killer in Africa,’ Wolter says. She goes on to explain that upto 600 vultures at a time can be poisoned from one carcass and in one instance. Farmers also indirectly contribute to the decline in the vulture population by placing poison in the carcasses to control the predator problem. ‘If these carcasses are placed out in the open the vultures are often the innocent victims,’ she explains.
According to The International Journal of Conservation (published quarterly by Cambridge University Press), an average of 63% of the African vulture population has declined over the past 30 years. Consequently, six out of the eight species now qualify for uplisting to critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
But the importance of vultures in our ecosystem is often underrated and overlooked. ‘Vultures are responsible for cleaning up the carcasses that would otherwise be a breeding ground for disease,’ says Maria Diekmann, founder of the Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST) in Namibia. Without vultures, animal carcasses will be eaten by other carnivores such as feral dogs that will lead to the spread of rabies.
Wolter describes vultures as ‘the crown jewels of the avian world.’ These species have roamed our skies for millions of years yet as elephant and rhino poaching increases so too do these vulture mass-murders.