#ShockWildlifeTruths: Vicious cycle of poison and poaching kills 150 endangered vultures

Nic Proust

More than 150 critically-endangered vultures have been found dead near Maun in northern Botswana this month after feeding off deliberately poisoned hippo and cow carcasses, a conservationist has confirmed.

In the first of two incidents, poachers appeared to be aiming for the vultures when they laced a hippo carcass with poison, said Beckie Garbett of Raptors Botswana. That incident saw 46 white-backed vultures and two hooded vultures killed. Both species are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN.

"This was illegal bush meat poaching where the poachers had poisoned the carcass to deliberately kill the vultures which would give their illegal activity away," Garbett told News24.

In the second case around a week later, two cow carcasses were laced with agricultural pesticides, likely by farmers trying to kill lions that had been taking their livestock. Tragically 103 white-backed vultures and one tawny eagle were killed, Garbett said.

Local newspaper Mmegi said that no lion carcasses had been discovered. According to Mmegi, there are reports of vulture poisonings every two to three weeks in Botswana. 

One of the worst cases of vulture poisonings in recent years was in July 2013 when between 400 and 600 vultures were reported poisoned just outside Chobe National Park. There have also been poisonings elsewhere in southern Africa, including Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Vultures help stop the spread of diseases like anthrax by cleaning up rotten carcasses.

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