Travel & conservation company, since 1991
See how we earn 5 starsTrustpilot - 5 stars
×
SEARCH OUR STORIES
OR
SEARCH OUR SAFARIS
AND / OR
Africa Geographic Travel

Written by Andre Botha, Manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust‘s Birds of Prey Programme and Co-chair for the IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group

We were alerted to a vulture poisoning incident on a private farm north-west of Hoedspruit late in the afternoon on 6 May 2015. After contacting the farm manager and obtaining initial information about the incident, we were able to meet with him first thing the next morning and assess the scene which was secured overnight to ensure that no further exposure to mammalian or avian scavengers would occur. The farm is located on the confluence of the Blyde and Olifants rivers.

vulture poisoning
© Andre Botha

A total of 65 vultures of various ages as well as a single adult tawny eagle were found dead at various locations on the scene. This included African white-backed (globally endangered), hooded (globally endangered) and Cape (globally vulnerable, regionally endangered, near-endemic) vultures. Many of the birds were adults of breeding age which will have severe consequences and cause the loss or break-up of several breeding pairs at this, the early stage of the breeding season.

vultures poisoning
© Andre Botha

During our assessment of the scene, it was obvious that the poisoning was associated with substantial meat-poaching activities as the team recovered many wire-snares and found what appeared to be a camp where poachers spent some time slaughtering a range of animals. Parts of carcasses that were not removed to be sold as meat were scattered on the scene. Based on the evidence, it seems that a zebra carcass was first laced with poison which killed a first batch of birds and this was followed up a few days later by the remains of a kudu cow that was also poisoned and that killed the remainder of the birds. The latter carcass was also cut up and parts of it were placed in the trees, apparently a deliberate attempt to poison avian rather mammalian scavengers.

poached kudu
© Andre Botha
poaching snares
© Andre Botha

We did find signs of mammalian scavenging on some of the older carcasses, so it is likely that jackal and/or hyena could also have been poisoned. A report of a dying jackal showing classic symptoms of poisoning was received from a neighbouring farm early on Friday.

vultures poisoned
© Andre Botha

Samples for toxicological and other analysis were collected from a number of carcasses. We believe a chemical with acute toxicity was used as many of the dead birds still had food in their mouths when they died. It is likely that a carbamate-based chemical was used to kill the birds. These type of chemicals are widely used in agricultural practices and, despite the same substances being banned for use in the last year, substantial stockpiles of these are still in circulation and available for use.

vulture poisoned
© Andre Botha

The scene of the crime was properly cleaned up and sterilised to prevent further poisoning of birds and other wildlife. All remains of the killed birds and poisoned carcasses and baits that were found were incinerated. The Limpopo Department of Environment and Tourism apparently visited the scene briefly on Wednesday afternoon, but it is unsure whether a formal investigation was launched or a docket opened in this regard.

burning vultures
© Andre Botha

To comment on this story please DOWNLOAD OUR APP. See details below.


HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF AFRICA GEOGRAPHIC:

  • Download our APP (mobile phone and desktop) to receive significant benefits including the best prices at Africa's top lodges, ready-made safari packages and networking with others like you. Find out more here.
  • Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to enjoy more stories like this. Subscribe here.
  • Travel with us. Travel in Africa is about knowing when and where to go, and with whom. A few weeks too early / late and a few kilometres off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. And wouldn’t that be a pity? Search for your ideal safari here, or contact an Africa Geographic safari consultant to plan your dream vacation.

AG Logo

Casino Siteleri is a non-governmental, non-profit, conservation organisation, founded in 1973. We aim to conserve threatened species and ecosystems in southern and east Africa to the benefit of all people. Help us deliver Conservation in Action by supporting the EWT.

Africa Geographic Travel