The Committee has spoken -International Vulture Awareness Day
Every year on the first Saturday of September, bird conservationists worldwide band together for International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) in order to raise awareness about this ecologically vital group of birds. Out of the 23 different species worldwide, 14 of these are either threatened or endangered due to human impact and our misunderstanding of these alien looking avians.
Vultures are the “clean-up” crew of nature fulfilling a very specific niche in the web of life. Found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica, vultures play a unique role in preventing the spread of life threatening diseases, such as anthrax , rabies and cholera, by feeding on carrion (dead animal matter) and even rotting meat that could be filled with bacteria dangerous to other animals. These large raptors have incredible eyesight and can spot a 6cm object from a height of 1km above the ground. They are a social bird which pair bond and will work cooperatively in spotting a meal and enjoy their find together, this group is collectively called a committee.
On IVAD, many conservation groups in South Africa will put out an animal carcass in order to attract vultures to a specific location where a count will take place. This count helps to keep a record of vulture numbers locally and internationally in the efforts to save this unique and important bird. Together with the various programmes aimed at increasing vulture numbers, IVAD acts as a unique education tool changing the mind sets of individuals regarding the negative associations with vultures.
Some of the main threats to vultures in South Africa are traditional belief systems and non-eco-friendly farming methods. Beliefs dictating that vultures are symbolic of death and are able to predict the future has led to the poaching of these raptors for the procuring of the head to predict lottery numbers and death. Farmers who use toxic digestible tick repellents for livestock or poisons to deter pest species from crops can indirectly affect hundreds of vultures who feed off the carcasses of these animals.
By monitoring vulture numbers and the movements of these incredible birds, we are able to establish safe breeding areas and continue to try and attract them to protected zones where they will not be threatened. This year IVAD took place on 6th September and here at Amakhosi we enlisted the help of our rangers and guests to assist us in counting, to attract the birds we along with many others put out a carcass to entice them to visit us, with already full bellies we managed to count only 4, 1 lappet face and 3 white back vultures, which is not too bad considering that last year they feasted at our neighbours !
We want to thank all the associations that have taken this cause to heart and long may they continue the good work.
To next year…The Amakhosi Ranger Team