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Over 90 vultures poisoned in Africa – sad news on the International Biodiversity Day

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Hundreds of vulture researchers and conservation managers have been engaging with the VCF and other organisations to prepare the Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan – a seminal piece of work commissioned by the Raptors MoU of the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS), and that aims to plan and guide conservation policy and actions for the next decade on the conservation of the 15 old world vultures. The main message that has resonated across the many meetings and workshops held is one – poison is the biggest threat to vultures worldwide.

This once again came to light today – ironically, when we are celebrating the International biodiversity day – when news that at least 94 African white-backed vultures were found dead around a poisoned elephant carcass on the Zimbabwe-Mozambican border, one more victim of the rampant poaching for ivory in that part of the world.

The vultures were victims of what experts call “sentinel poisoning” – they were killed with a potent poison so as not to alert wildlife enforcement brigades about the presence of the carcass, so that poachers could hack the ivory out without being detected.

The scene has been properly investigated and is being decontaminated to prevent any additional poisoning from taking place.

This is yet another devastating blow to African vultures – and a sign that the African vulture crisis continues unabated. Most of African vulture species are now either critically endangered or endangered. This poisoning incident will have even bigger consequences as the breeding season for African white-backs is now starting in that part of the world – many of the dead birds would be adult birds attending a nest.

At least two of the killed birds were wing-tagged, originating in South Africa and Swaziland – another reminder that conservation knowns no borders and needs concerted international action – such as the vulture MSAP and events like todays´ International Biodiversity Day.

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