600 vultures have died near Namibia‘s Bwabwata National Park in July after feeding on a poisoned elephant carcass. This confirms according to IUCN that the indiscriminate use of poison is one of the major causes of the ongoing decline in vulture populations across most of Africa. It is now common practice for poachers killing elephants and other large mammals to lace carcasses with poison to kill vultures. Vultures congregating at these carcasses in large numbers are often used by law enforcement officials in many parts of Africa as an indication of poaching activity and as a way to pursue the offenders.
Most of the birds killed in the recent incident are the endangered African White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus). The use of poison also negatively affects a number of other large raptors such as the Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) and the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus), as well as lions, hyenas and jackals.
Africa‘s vulture populations cannot sustain such losses and the current decline may have serious ecological and human health consequences in the longer term, say IUCN experts. The precipitous decline in three vulture species on the Indian sub-continent over the last 20 years has caused several problems, as there are fewer vultures to remove carcasses of dead animals. A proliferation of feral dogs and a substantial increase in diseases such as rabies have been documented and can be linked directly to this decline.
Many countries in Africa do not have appropriate legislation and other measures in place to control or prevent the indiscriminate use of poisons. Penalties in cases where those responsible are apprehended are often minimal and do not act as a deterrent to the perpetrators.
“We believe that crimes of this nature should have the same priority and be subject to similar penalties as those ascribed to incidents of poaching of the mega-fauna such as elephant and rhino”, says André Botha, Co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Vulture Specialist
Group. “We urge countries in the southern Africa region to review their policies and implement
appropriate measures that will help avoid similar incidents in the future.”
André Botha, Co-Chair: IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
See more “Namibia: Conservationists Act on Mass Vulture Poisoning”
Source: IUCN Red List – Vultures – the silent victims of Africa’s wildlife poaching