The plight of African vultures has already reached the international conservation agenda, with several species declining rapidly, up to the point that the IUCN decided to downgrade the conservations status of 6 species, including 4 that became critically endangered.
One of the main factors leading to this decline is the widespread use of poison in Africa, against predators, or sometimes used by poachers to kill elephant and lions. In the last few years many cases of massive poisoning of vultures have been reported, mostly in eastern and southern Africa.
It seems now that this threat continues unabated, as a new poison incident came to light recently – Mozambique´s National Administration of Conservation Areas (ANAC) revealed that a routine patrol in Limpopo National Park in the end of August found 45 vulture carcasses (and one jackal) next to a nyala (a large ungulate) that had been poisoned. This time the beaks and claws of the vultures were intact, so they were not collected for the traditional medicine trade. The remains of the nyala, vultures and jackal were burnt to prevent further poisonings.
It may be possible that the intended target of the poisoning were lions, as a pride of lions and respective cubs were in the area. Earlier two lions were killed in the same Park after being baited with poisoned meat.
In late 2016 swift action from law-enforcement teams led to the arrest of two poachers who were in possession of lion bones who have since been sentenced to eight years imprisonment each for their involvement in the poaching of lion within the Park. Limpopo National Park authorities are making concerted efforts to enhance anti-poaching and poisoning controls, which include providing field rangers with poisoning awareness training. In addition, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA) Wildlife Poisoning Task Team has developed a poisoning response operations manual and set up a central database for tracking and analyzing of all poisoning events across the international boundary between the three partner countries, namely Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The VCF and its partners have been working on anti-poisoning activities, campaigns and programmes in Europe and Africa, and we will continue to do so to try to help vultures worldwide. Poison received a lot of attention in the recently developed Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan (MsAP), prepared by VCF and other partners in the framework of the Convention for the protection of Migratory Species (CMS), and that includes all African vulture species. The Vulture MsAP will hopefully be approved by all signatory states in the Conference of the Parties of the CMS next month in the Philippines, and will then be a significant tool to address these massive poisoning incidents and therefore revert the continuing decline of African vultures.
Photo: Archive (not from the Mozambique poisoning)