A conservation success story.
Over the last few weeks Love Africa has been privileged to witness and document stories from the ground of species conservation at it’s best.
To witness these projects and meet the passionate individuals, aptly classified as ‘essential services’, has been a highlight of this year. Conservation of our wild spaces does not stop during a pandemic, and neither do the people who are there to protect it.
Once again, it has fuelled our team with more passion on the importance of shaping and telling these stories, to share the incredible work being done on the ground, reminding us all to support environmental work and organisations.
We spent our time in Northern Zululand and here is the first story to share with you – Critically endangered vultures released after mass poisoning. The second second story is of the world’s most trafficked mammal, but that will come at a later stage.
June 2020 was an important month in the conservation efforts of the critically endangered African White Backed Vulture in Zululand, South Africa. Another great example of collaborative efforts making conservation possible in the province.
Three critically endangered African White Backed Vultures have been successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild by Wildlife Act, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Raptor Rescue; through the Zululand Vulture Project.
Did you know?
*African populations of vultures are experiencing rapid declines and most species are now at risk of extinction
*The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently classes 39% of vulture species as critically endangered (IUCN 2017).
*KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has significant populations of vultures, with this specific project focusing on the tree nesting species, including White Headed, African White Backed and Lappet Faced vultures. These species are listed as critically endangered and endangered respectively (IUCN 2018).
*Poison use (and misuse) is a major contributor to vulture deaths and population declines have been reported across much of KZN. This use of poisons by poachers can wipe out huge numbers at once and, since 2001, almost 70% of breeding pairs in this northern KZN breeding cluster have vanished.
“Vultures face many threats – poisoning is just one of them. There are also power lines and other energy infrastructure, habitat change and loss, and lack of food that all play a role.” – Chris Kelly, Wildlife ACT Director – Species Conservation.
Vultures were hit hard in 2019, with 4 confirmed cases of mass poisonings in the northern part of KZN alone, resulting in a minimum of 56 birds confirmed poisoned. However, fast reporting of suspicious activity by property managers to the Zululand Vulture Project, ensured swift response from Wildlife ACT’s Emergency Response Team and the rescue of 4 African White-Backed Vultures and 1 Lappet-Faced Vulture. In addition to this, the fast decontamination of the poison sites prevented hundreds of other vultures, and other species, being killed.
The few poisoned (but still living) birds were rushed down to Raptor Rescue in Pietermaritzburg. Here they were treated and rehabilitated over 9 months, to ensure they get the best chance at a successful return to the wild. “They were put on fluids, treated with activated charcoal and atropine, then kept for several months for monitoring with ongoing vet checks and blood panels.” Ben Hoffman, Raptor Rescue
Manyoni Private Game Reserve was the scene for this exciting chapter in the recovery of 3 of these birds. Each bird was equipped with a GPS backpack and wing tags which will help Wildlife ACT and the Zululand Vulture Project maintain a close eye on the birds’ movements and behaviour. This post-release data is vital for understanding the full success of these rescue and recovery operations.
Having been given the best chance of survival, one by one, these rescued Vultures were set free to soar once more in Zululand’s open skies.
All photos by Casey Pratt // Love Africa MarketingGo Back