Power lines threaten Cape Vulture's future - wildlife organisation

The future of the vulnerable Cape Vulture hangs in the balance as older design power lines continue to kill or maim birds, non-governmental organisation VulPro said this week.

In April, it recorded 23 vultures - mainly the endemic Cape Vulture - that were either killed or permanently injured on power lines around the country.

At the weekend, this number increased to 28.

VulPro founder Kerri Wolter said most of these recorded cases were in the North West and Eastern Cape.

She has raised concerns because they were used to seeing a mortality rate on power lines of around three vultures per month.

"The tragedy of this latest unacceptably high tally is that it is possible to proof powerlines to prevent these mortalities from happening," she said.

"For our team, the death by electrocution of the oldest of our captive-bred chicks, which was released last year on 8 November to help supplement the wild bird population, hit us particularly hard."


Vultures travelled long distances to look for food, water sources and breeding sites.

Vulpro said power lines were often used as a roosting point because they were elevated and allowed vultures to easily lift-off and climb thermals.

"More often than not, powerline related injuries maim birds for life, with no chance of being re-released back into the wild. Collisions usually result in broken wings and legs which may need amputation and/or pinning, whilst electrocutions nearly always result in fatality."

Eskom was aware that vultures were high-risk because of their large wingspans and heavy bodies.

They could potentially touch two live lines simultaneously, resulting in electrocution and tripping the electricity supply.

The parastatal had been recording reported incidents for many years in a national register, and also required new power lines to have a "bird-friendly" design.

Last year, a partnership between Eskom and the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) resulted in the Bird Detection System (BDS).

The solar powered BDS was the first real-time system to transmit video clips or photos directly to a cellphone or data bank, with information sent straight to a cloud server.

"This device will enable us to gather information about the time of day or night these collisions occur, what the weather conditions are like at the time, and the behaviour of the bird right before colliding with a power line. This will give us far greater insight into what causes these collisions and allow us to find more effective ways to reduce them," said EWT Wildlife and Energy Programme Manager Constant Hoogstad at the time.

The future of the vulnerable Cape Vulture hangs in

VulPro says many vultures die because of powerlines. (VulPro)

It was first tested in De Aar in the Northern Cape Province, where bird mortalities were high.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said on Monday that they were aware of vulture mortalities and very responsive to issues raised by wildlife organisations.

"We are working together. Where we do get issues, we put mechanisms in place."

He encouraged wildlife organisations to report any issues to Eskom.

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

KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
No ways, I'm done
41% - 2913 votes
Yes, I still want to be cautious
21% - 1504 votes
Only certain circumstances
37% - 2647 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.