Vultures: Facing extinc­tion

Several vulture species in Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa can be found on the IUCN red list. In this blog you can learn more about the endangered birds and their threats.


South Africa is home to nine species of vultures, seven of which are now on the red list of endangered species in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Threatened by the advancing civilization and the associated construction of obstacles as well as the loss of habitats, their number continues to decline. In many cases, the animals only breed in protected areas because they can no longer find suitable trees outside the areas, food is too scarce or they are disturbed during breeding.

A further threat is the increasingly frequent poisoning of animals by cadavers prepared with pesticides, such as Temik (substance: Aldicarb) and partly also Curaterr (Carbofuran). The primary target group for the prepared carrion, which is often laid out by farmers, is in many cases predators such as the lion, from whom they try to protect their livestock. Designed for open spaces, these carcasses are also a food source for vultures who travel up to 100 km a day in search of food. These substances usually have a negative effect even in very small doses and many animals die within a few hours from the consequences of poisoning. Since 2001, about 70% of the breeding pairs have already disappeared, whereby a direct connection can be established to the increased poisoning of the animals.


Not only the poisoning is threatening the survival of the species, but also the fact that many poisoned animals have left their young in the nests in search of food. Between April and December ít’s the vultures’ breeding season, in which already the loss of one parent can lead to the fact that the young bird does not survive. Furthermore, the females often lay only one egg once per year/once in two years and in about half of the cases the breed is unsuccessful due to natural conditions. If a young animal has still managed to survive, the birds begin with their own nesting only after approximately five to six years. In addition, it is suspected that animals, even after they have become fledged, still orient themselves towards their parents and therefore continue to depend on them in some form.

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