The vulture population in the Kruger National Park is under threat.
The illegal trade in vultures for traditional medicines, known as muthi, is a dire threat to the conservation of African vultures.
Over 100 vultures and a hyena have died after feeding on a buffalo carcass near Punda Maria in the Kruger National Park.
The grisly discovery was made on Thursday morning near the park fence bordering a local village.
Two similar incidents were reported in the same area last year.
“Rangers on patrol discovered the carcass of a buffalo, which appeared to have been laced with poison. They also found over 100 dead vultures and a dead hyena likely to have fed off the carcass,” SANParks said.
A further 20 vultures were discovered at the poisoning scene and were in a bad condition.
With the assistance of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT), these birds were rushed to Shingwedzi and Moholoholo rehabilitation centres for treatment.
Yolan Friedmann, CEO of the EWT and SANParks board member, expressed her concern that:
The scene has been cordoned off for further investigation and the carcasses have been burnt to ensure that there are no further poisonings.
Initial indications are that some of the carcasses were harvested for their body parts.
SANParks confirms that the matter has been referred to the police for investigation.
Gareth Coleman, the managing executive of the Kruger National Park, said: “This reprehensible act once again highlights the ever-present danger of poisoning by unscrupulous people. We cannot afford to let our guards down and we call on law-enforcement agencies outside the park to move swiftly to arrest the perpetrators.”
Birds and muthi
Research papers indicate that traditional healers make use of vulture body parts alone, or in combination with plants or minerals, for various purposes, primarily to give clairvoyant abilities, but also to promote good dreams or increased intelligence, to treat illnesses, and to appease the ancestors.
"Vultures were acquired (for use in traditional medicine) by poisoning and trapping in communal rangelands and inside protected areas (the Kruger National Park, Manyeleti Game Reserve, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, and Bushbuckridge Nature Reserve). Vultures reportedly varied in price from R300 to R1500 for a whole bird," according to a research paper published in the Journal of Raptor Research in September, 2021.
Researchers polled a total of 51 traditional healers from the Kukula Traditional Health Practitioners Association in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga.
It is estimated that this association of traditional health practitioners uses 400 to 800 vultures a year.
(approximately US$17 to US$85) for a whole bird.