Rare Bearded Vulture found poisoned

2014-03-05 00:00

LEFUMA a rare adult male Bearded Vulture has been found poisoned on a cliff face near its nest near Witsieshoek on the KZN/Free State border.

Lefuma had been fitted with a satellite GPS tracking device in August 2012 to obtain more information on the movements of these birds and to determine the primary causes of mortality in the population.

Last month it was noticed that Lefuma had not moved and a visit to the cliff revealed the dead bird. The autopsy proved that he died from ingesting Terbufos, an insecticide normally used to control crop pests.

“This is so utterly tragic. He was a breeding bird ... and in a month’s time he would have been getting ready for the next breeding season. It is a huge blow for their declining population numbers,” said Sonja Krüger, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s Maloti Drakensberg Park Ecologist and chairperson of the Bearded Vulture Task Force run by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT).

Monitoring over the past 10 years has revealed there are only about 100 breeding pairs left (about 350 individuals) in the Maloti Drakensberg region. This is the third recorded death of Bearded Vultures from poisoning over the past year. Ten of the tracked birds have died since 2008, of which nine have been poisoned and one died after colliding with a power line. Of these nine, three were found in the Free State, two in KZN, two in Lesotho and two in the Eastern Cape.

The Bearded Vulture was recently uplisted to Critically Endangered because of the threats to the species in both Lesotho and SA. “The awful truth is that there might well be more poisoned Bearded Vultures. Already, almost half of our tracked birds have been killed by poison, which paints a very scary picture when extrapolated to the real situation in the population as a whole.”

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