Lesotho: Wind farms could cause the local extinction of vultures
February 2013, Volume 11-1

Johannesburg, 24 January 2013:  BirdLife South Africa and BirdLife International are concerned that the proposed development of a wind farm at Letseng in Lesotho could have severe impacts on the already declining populations of Cape Vultures and Bearded Vultures. South Africa and Lesotho share the responsibility of safeguarding the populations of Bearded Vultures and Cape Vultures in the Lesotho Highlands and the surrounding escarpment of South Africa.  PowerNET Developments (Pty) Ltd propose to erect 42 wind turbines near Letšeng-La-Terae, on the north-eastern escarpment of the Drakensberg.  The avifaunal specialist report, compiled by well-respected ornithologist Dr Andrew Jenkins, indicates that even with mitigation, the anticipated impacts of the project on highly unique and sensitive avifauna will be of high to very high negative significance, rendering the project unsustainable.

Vultures play an important ecological, economic, cultural and aesthetic role.  Unfortunately, vultures appear to be particularly prone to colliding with the turbine blades. The proposed Letseng wind farm is located in habitat that is critical for both the Bearded Vulture and Cape Vulture, both threatened species. A decline of birds in Lesotho will severely impact the viability and survival rates of the vultures in South Africa.

“BirdLife South Africa has learnt from its partners in Europe and North America that incorrectly located wind farms can cause massive mortalities of vultures and eagles”, says Mark Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa. “For this reason, we will strongly oppose any wind farm developments which we believe will result in significant impacts on the Bearded Vulture, Cape Vulture and other threatened South African birds” he added.

BirdLife South Africa fully recognises the need to move towards generating clean energy and supports the responsible development of a renewable energy infrastructure in southern Africa. It therefore encourages wind farm developers to work with them to help identify suitable sites for wind energy to minimise the impact on birds and the environment while delivering lasting sustainable development.

Further information can be obtained from Samantha Ralston (at energy@birdlife.org.za or 083-6733948) or Dr Hanneline Smit- Robinson at conservation@birdlife.org.za (011 789 1122)