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Africa Geographic
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Africa Geographic Travel

Written by: James Walsh

The below video is a teaser for the film, ON THE EDGE. Currently in production, ON THE EDGE is a documentary that explores the conflict between vultures and traditional healers. The film touches on the new and old, the local and regional, the beliefs and the science, the theory and the practice. Ultimately we ask: Can tradition and conservation sit side by side when it comes to an endangered species that soars across boundaries?

The number of nesting vulture pairs in KwaZulu-Natal is in dramatic free fall. Some of the key culprits are traders who poison carcasses that vultures feed on so that they can collect the dead birds to sell to the muthi trade. Vulture body parts are used in traditional medicine by sangomas and traditional healers.  

vulture

Vultures are unique in that their conservation cannot be confined to protected areas – their flight takes them far and wide. Consequently a population of birds in KwaZulu-Natal belongs to all of Southern Africa. What happens in KwaZulu-Natal affects a much wider region – a timely metaphor for all of conservation.

vulture-conservation

These birds play an important role in disease and scavenger control that is often underestimated and poorly communicated. The effects on the agricultural economy when they start disappearing from the ecosystem are devastating.

vulture-nest

On the other side of the fence, traditional healers and sangomas have been harvesting these birds over centuries for medicinal purposes. How are they collected and traded? What role do they play in traditional medicine? How aware are these healers of the vulture’s plight?

sangomas-traditional-medicine

Sinamatella Productions is currently fundraising in order to be able to tell this story and bring it to big and small screens. ON THE EDGE is set to hit screens in November – if you would like to support the filmmakers, please contact: james@sinamatella.com

vulture-conservation-kwazulu-natal

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