News24

SA vultures face extinction

2009-09-01 19:10

Cape Town - Seven of South Africa's nine vulture species face extinction, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) warned on Tuesday.

The birds are among those animals most threatened by the local trade in traditional medicine, the environmental organisation said in a statement issued ahead of its National Vulture Awareness Day on September 5.

"The threats facing vultures include poisoning, persecution, electrocution on and collision with power lines, drowning in farm reservoirs, a shortage of safe food sources and loss of suitable habitat," it said.

Research showed vultures were highly mobile, and could cover up to 100km a day in search of food. This made implementing effective conservation measures difficult.

"There is also strong evidence to suggest that vultures are among the animals most threatened by the trade in traditional medicine. This appears to be partly responsible for the current rapid decline of vulture populations on the subcontinent.

"Poachers use strong poisons to kill the birds and then sell them on to the large urban muti-markets around the country. Consumers who unknowingly buy parts of these poisoned birds risk death, or at best, serious illness."

Among the vulture species threatened is the lammergeier or bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus).

"The bearded vulture, whose range... is restricted to the Maluti-Drakensberg mountains in South Africa and Lesotho, is classified as endangered and continues to decline in numbers," EWT said.

The lammergeier is well known for its habit of dropping bones onto rocks from a height to crack them open so it can get at the bone marrow, a major part of its diet.