Electrocution of endangered Cape vultures probed

2016-03-30 18:02
(Picture: Endangered Wildlife Trust)

(Picture: Endangered Wildlife Trust)

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Cape Town – The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and Eskom are probing the electrocution of approximately 49 endangered Cape vultures along power lines in the Eastern Cape town of Elliot at the weekend.

EWT energy programme manager, Constant Hoogstad, said they were addressing “the devastating situation” after conservationist Walter Neser reported it.

He said EWT relied on reports from conservation and birding enthusiasts to identify problem power lines. Energy and telecommunications structures were tall and linear, which increased the risk of bird strikes.

“Due to their large wingspans, heavy bodies and gregarious nature, vultures are among one of the most high-risk bird groups when it comes to mortality on Eskom infrastructure,” he said.

Threat to wildlife

EWT partnered with Eskom in 1996 to deal with threats to wildlife. All reported incidents are recorded in a national register, apparently the only such register in the world.

Since the inception of the partnership, the deaths of 1 262 vultures had been recorded.

“Once a mortality is reported, an EWT fieldworker or Eskom staff member will visit the incident location to compile a detailed report of all the relevant information,” said Hoogstad.

EWT then recommended solutions and worked with Eskom to mitigate the risk. It conducted independent annual audits on randomly-selected sites.

Hoogstad said Eskom had developed a standard more than a decade ago to ensure all new power lines were designed to be bird-friendly.

Vulture mortalities

This meant it should not be possible for birds with large wingspans to breach the gap between two live conductors or between live and earth phases.

“Tragically, none of the nine provinces in South Africa are immune to vulture mortalities,” he said.

North West recorded the highest number of vulture strikes. Hoogstad attributed this to numerous vulture colonies present there, the large number of protected areas, limited trees for perching, and less competition for food from scavengers.

Members of the public should report wildlife deaths on electrical infrastructure to 0860 111 535.

Read more on:    mthatha  |  animals

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