Vultures are as a bird group, the most declining one in the world.
The reasons are different:
- in farmlands far from protected areas nowadays the carcasses of dead animals are disposed by farmers (and not made available)
- in farmlands close to protected areas the carcasses are often poisoned to kill predators that are seen as a potential threat to livestock
The result is that inside and outside the many parks and conservancies in Africa vultures are disappearing at a fast rate both in Southern and Eastern Africa.
In the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem for example, poisoning is a huge threat, a poisoned carcass can easily kill 100 vultures in a go. The declining number of this vital scavenger is affecting the balance of nature.
There is no “soap” anymore to clean the land, with many carcasses around there is an over abundance of breeding ground for various species of insects, many diseases can spread with an enormous potential damage. Especially insects form the Diptera order such as blow flies, flesh flies and even house flies which are often major vectors for livestock, wildlife and human diseases
Such an inbalance always leads to terrible consequences as it has a domino effect on everything else
With this problem in northern Tanzania, researchers of wildlife conservation society WCS started looking down south to analyze the situation there.
Dr. Corinne Kendall conducted a survey in Ruaha and Katavi in 2013, her findings:
‘Basically we discovered that vulture abundance in Southern Tanzania is quite high and actually higher than that in Southern Kenya for some species, particularly Hooded and White-headed vultures. This is really exciting because it means that Southern Tanzania may still have a healthy vulture population. Also based on movement studies I have done in southern Kenya, we are pretty sure that the two vulture populations are not connected, i.e. vultures from southern Kenya don’t fly this far south. This is important as it means this population in southern Tanzania shouldn’t be susceptible to the poisoning that is occurring in southern Kenya.’
Knowing that there is a stronghold in southern Tanzania where the population is actually in good shape is of huge importance, allowing more time to solve the critical situation elsewhere . The problem cannot be underestimated – I personally witnessed hundreds of vultures dying in the Selous after a hippo carcass was poisoned in order to kill crocs for their skin
In the Ruaha Ecosystem the different species of vultures are still balancing nature, the full pecking order is there; lapped faced vulture, white backed vulture, Ruppell’s griffon, white headed and hooded vultures, egyptian vultures have been seen and even a cape vulture was once spotted by Rob Glen and Sue Stollberger.
WCS is using GPS technology to track the movement of vultures in order to establish how far the populations are roaming and how the heavy poisoning in some areas is effecting the populations of other areas. This will give us a broader understanding and hopefully the weapons to protect the vulture in the near future