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The African vulture crisis continues – yet another mass poisoning of vultures (and carnivores) in Tanzania

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The Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (Vulture MsAP), approved recently in the conference of the parties of the Convention for Migratory Species – a global strategic blueprint identifying priorities and actions to conserve 15 species of old world vultures – says it clearly: (illegal) poison with poisoned baits (often against predators of livestock) is the main threat to vultures worldwide.

The VCF is particularly active in fighting this threat and is implementing a number of projects across Europe including many actions against poisoning. We are also in contact with some African colleagues fighting this threat, but the news coming from that continent are even bleaker than from Europe – seems that the African vulture crisis, that led to several African vulture species being considered globally endangered in the last few years, is continuing.

The latest bad news came from Tanzania, in a Wildlife Management Area just outside Ruaha National Park. The Ruaha Carnivore project is following some tagged lions, and after one of them sent a ‘mortality alert’, they found a devastating scene – six lions (the collared adult female, three sub-adult females and two sub-adult males) killed, apparently from poison as they were all found close to a scavenged cattle carcass, together with dozens of critically endangered vultures (mostly dead, some badly injured). In the end the vulture dead toll was enormous – 75 dead vultures, while 3 could be saved.

The authorities are investigating this incident, but it appears that someone poisoned a carcass after lions attacked cattle. Unfortunately poisoning is a common response to conflict with wildlife. Cattle are extremely important to local people, and carnivores can cause major economic hardship when they attack stock – and, when people don’t benefit from lions, it is unsurprising that they resort to killing them. So prevent carnivore attacks on stock is very important to reduce chances of retaliatory killings – but it is also difficult and challenging. That is why vulture and carnivore folk needs to work hand in hand to solve this problem. It is also vital that local people receive real benefits from wildlife tourism, so they eventually see them as more of an asset alive than dead – Tanzania has $2billion tourism sector mostly based on wildlife tourism.

The VCF would like to celebrate the Ruaha Carnivore Project for the work they do to try to minimise wildlife conflict in the area, and for their engagement in this and many others issues.

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