At least 150 critically-endangered vultures were poisoned to death in separate incidents in Botswana and South Africa, conservationists said Friday, warning the killings pushed the birds closer to extinction. Vulture poisoning is not uncommon in wildlife-rich southern Africa, where they are targeted by poachers because they draw unwanted attention to their illegal activities.
The birds’ heads are also used in traditional medicine, according to wildlife groups.
In the latest incidents, more than 50 white-backed vultures were found dead in Botswana’s northern Chobe district on Friday, while about 100 more were discovered in South Africa’s Kruger National Park on Thursday, according to vulture conservation group Vulpro. The group said the bird’s heads, feet and organs were removed.
We unfortunately end this week with some exceptionally sad news. Over the last 2 days, 150 vultures have been poisoned…
Posted by VulPro on Thursday, August 11, 2022
“Vulture populations cannot withstand these losses and the threat of extinction creeps ever closer,” the group said in a Facebook post.
In both cases, the birds died after feeding from the carcass of a buffalo that appeared to have been laced with poison, said Vulpro founder Kerri Wolter.
“What makes this even more catastrophic is that it’s breeding season,” Wolter told AFP, explaining that chicks would not survive without their parents.
Park officials in South Africa said they were investigating the incident, adding that some of the carcasses appeared to have been harvested for their body parts.
“Given the critical status of vultures globally, poisonings at this scale place the species at increasing risk of extinction,” Yolan Friedmann, the head of the Endangered Wildlife Trust conservation group, said in a statement on the Kruger incident.
The white-backed vulture is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “red list” of critically-endangered bird species.
One of the largest vulture deaths recorded in recent years in Botswana was in 2019, when 537 carcasses were discovered in the Chobe game reserve.
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