Cape's first vulture breeding project launched

2014-09-06 08:30

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Cape Town – Eagle encounters bird rehabilitation centre has launched the Western Cape’s first vulture captive breeding programme, as the world marks International Vulture Awareness Day.

“The Eagle Encounters Cape Vulture Breeding Project aims to establish at least 30 captive breeding pairs to replenish wild populations,” owner, Hank Chalmers, told News24.

Breeding stock vultures are being sourced from African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in KZN and Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Limpopo.

“Eagle Encounters is currently in possession of three pairs for the project which has a time frame of at least 20 years before the reintroduction process,” said Chalmers. “A large enclosure is to be constructed and will include breeding cliffs.”

Vulture numbers in decline

According to Cape Nature ornithologist, Kevin Shaw, vulture numbers are in decline in South Africa as well as the rest of Africa.

“In most cases poisoning by poachers is to blame as vultures serve as a quick warning of nearby rhino carcasses to nature conservation officials,” Shaw told News24.

Earlier News24 reports also suggest that vultures are being targeted by traditional healers who reportedly tell customers to sleep with a vulture head – this is said to endow the hopeful with clairvoyant powers to amongst other things foretell Lotto numbers.

In response to news of Eagle Encounters breeding programme Shaw expressed some reservations but said that it is a step in the right direction.

“In order for a breeding programme to be of use to conservation it needs to produce a fair number of birds,” he said, and added that captive vultures cannot be released into the wild without the undertaking of a risk assessment as they may pose a greater risk to wild birds.

'Feeding them carcasses for public viewing'

On 6 September Eagle Encounters, based at Spier wine estate marks International Vulture Day with a special talk on the birds and breeding them.

“We will also be flying the vultures and feeding them carcasses for public viewing,” bird handler, Anzio Abels, told News24.

International Vulture Awareness Day is now recognised as a co-ordinated international day which enables vulture publicity to a wider audience and highlights the important work being carried out by the world’s vulture conservationists, according to the official website.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  conservation  |  animals

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