Vulture, thought extinct, seen in Kruger

2013-06-23 17:46
A rare Egyptian Vulture (left) spotted sitting next to a White-Backed Vulture in the Kruger National Park.

A rare Egyptian Vulture (left) spotted sitting next to a White-Backed Vulture in the Kruger National Park. (Andrew Hudson)

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Mbombela - A vulture declared regionally extinct in South Africa has reappeared in the Kruger National Park.

Marloth Park Honorary Ranger Genie Retief spotted a juvenile Egyptian Vulture, also known as "Pharaoh's Chicken" on 6 May. Fellow ranger Andrew Hudson took a photograph, which was presented to local South African Rare Birds Reports group who confirmed the bird's identity.

"This is the first sighting of an Egyptian Vulture in the KNP since 1994... This is a greatly exciting and extremely rare occurrence and birders across the country are envious of the rangers who were lucky enough to identify the vulture,” said Birdlife South Africa regional conservationist Ernst Retief.

Fewer than 50 sightings of the bird have been confirmed in the country since 1945. 

The species was listed as regionally extinct in Birdlife South Africa’s Red Data Book in 2000.

Retief said the vulture is thought to have travelled more than 2 500km from the breeding population in East Africa in search for food.

“Due to habitat destruction and agriculture in the Egyptian Vulture’s breeding areas, the birds sometimes travel great distances to find food," he said.

There are believed to be 20 000 individual species worldwide. They are distributed from south-western Europe to India and northern and eastern Africa.

Retief said that the sighting was extremely exciting for South Africa’s birding fraternity.

“This was a huge and unexpected surprise for me and for the large birding community here in South Africa. Many people drove to the KNP from hundreds of kilometres away to try and spot the vulture,” he said.

Bryan Jones, founder of the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre near Hoedspruit, said that the vulture was most likely just visiting South Africa.

“The birds which visit South Africa are normally vagrants, meaning that they will only be this far south for a short time before flying back to their breeding grounds,” he explained.

The Egyptian Vulture has a sacred place in ancient Egypt, where it was used as a symbol of royalty. It was the first species to be protected by law after a pharaoh attached the death penalty to anyone who killed one of the birds. After this ruling, the bird came to be called "Pharaoh's Chicken". - African Eye News Service

Read more on:    mbombela  |  birds

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