Vulture Conservation Project

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Vultures form an important ecological component of our natural environment, cleaning up dead carcasses and decreasing the spread of some diseases.

The relationship between vultures and people is also a venerable one – vultures played roles in some early societies, including the Egyptian and the Hindu societies; vultures continue to be used as symbols or metaphors in modern societies; and vulture body parts are used in muthi.

Today, vultures face an unprecedented onslaught from human activities. They have to cope with electrocutions and collisions with electrical structures, poisonings, land-use changes, a decrease in food availability and exposure to toxicity through veterinary drugs, to list just a few of some of the challenges facing vultures today.

Vultures, positioned at the top of the food chain, are an indicator of the health of the environment below them – and dependent for their survival on a healthy environment.

As such the work of the Vulture Conservation Programme (“VulPro”) work is intended and expected to impact on many other aspects of the environment – beyond vultures.

VulPro approaches vulture conservation in an integrated, multidisciplinary fashion, with the benefits from the programme accruing to both vultures and society at large. VulPro combines education and good science, with networking, capacity building and knowledge generation.

VulPro conducts and facilitates educational talks and interaction with both tame and wild vultures at the rehabilitation and educational centre in Hartebeespoort, and regionally, through the follow-up of vulture home range and feeding studies.

With the many threats vultures are facing throughout Southern Africa, vulture rehabilitation has become an essential part of the work of VulPro. Collecting grounded, injured, poisoned and disabled vultures around South Africa, special emphasis within the Gauteng, North West and Limpopo Provinces, VulPro is able to save many vultures that would otherwise have met untimely deaths. By doing this, VulPro is in a position to release those vultures that are fit and healthy and to keep in captivity those that cannot be released, for breeding, research and educational purposes. Vulture populations are in many instances so depleted that the rehabilitation and release of individual birds can be ecologically and genetically significant.

At present, VulPro operates the only facility approved by Gauteng Nature Conservation and recognised by North West Nature Conservation for vulture rehabilitation.

This multidisciplinary and networking programme looks at conservation holistically, by focusing on the vulture at the top of the food chain and gaining new knowledge on the environment below and so also impacting on society’s well-being.

Objectives

    • Vulture rehabilitation
      • Collect injured, grounded & disabled vultures
      • On-going monitoring of released vultures using patagial tags & GSM/GPS devices
    • Distribution, dispersal & foraging ranges of vultures
      • Tracking of the Magaliesberg Cape Vultures using patagial tags & GSM/GPS devices
      • Monitoring of vulture restaurants & recording vulture re-sightings i.e. patagial tags & photographs
      • Tracking African White-backed & Cape Vultures which frequently visit Mankwe Nature Reserve, adjacent to Pilanesberg
      • Monitoring & tracking Cape Vultures from the Manoutse breeding colony near Kruger National Park
      • Recording & keeping a database of all vulture re-sightings related to the B-series of patagial/wing tags
    • Cape Vulture breeding monitoring (four largest colonies globally)
      • Magaliesberg
      • Kransberg
      • Blouberg
      • Manoutsa
    • Veterinary & ecological research related to vultures:
      • Researching the effects of lead & NSAID’s on vultures
      • Surveying & studying vulture restaurants
      • Researching the role vultures play in the spread of diseases
      • Ongoing research related to providing veterinary treatment for vultures (i.e. for snake bites, poisonings etc.)
    • Cape Vulture breeding & reintroduction programme (Namibia)
      • Creating a safer environment for vultures in Namibia
      • Rebuilding the Cape Vulture population in Namibia
      • Monitoring the Cape Vulture population in Namibia as part of a national avian scavenger population monitoring programme
      • Providing an effective information, outreach, education & information sharing platform for vulture conservation as well as facilitating collaborative conservation support in Namibia & the region
  • Vulture educational & awareness programmes
    • Holding talks & public displays
    • Conducting workshops & training
    • Assisting with farmer/vulture conflicts

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