Extreme climate leaves African vultures endangered

One of the vultures being nursed at VulPro in Gauteng, 7 January 2019. Picture: ANA

A total of 23 vultures were brought in to VulPro for treatment for amongst others dehydration, starvation and calcium deficient injuries.

High temperatures and the continued drought in Southern Africa is causing a worrying situation for the Cape and African white-backed vulture populations.

According to VulPro, an NGO that safeguards Africa’s vulture populations through rescue and rehabilitation efforts, there has been an alarming number of vulture rehabilitation cases for the months of December and early January.

A total of 23 vultures were brought in to VulPro for treatment for amongst others, dehydration, starvation and calcium deficient injuries in December, and a further 13 birds were collected within the first six days of January.

According to VulPro, the vulture fledglings have either left their nests too early, not had sufficient calcium in their diet, combined with the climatical conditions of extreme heat, lack of available water and sufficient food.

“It feels as if the whole Magaliesberg fledgling population is presently being treated at VulPro!” said Kerri Wolter, founder and manager of VulPro.

One of the vultures being nursed at VulPro in Gauteng, 7 January 2018. Picture: ANA

Wolter said: “Some have come in with broken bones, dislocated joints and bent bones, which is a sure sign of calcium deficiency. Some we have sadly not been able to pull through. This, too, has stretched our manpower resources.”

Cape vultures are globally endangered, with less than 4,200 breeding pairs left and the African White-backed vulture has declined to a critically endangered status.

“These vultures are typically slow breeding, reaching maturity between five and seven years of age and laying one egg a year. Fledglings leave the nest towards the end of November, beginning of December.

“While the majority of South Africa has been experiencing extreme above normal temperatures for the first half of summer, together with the continued drought in many parts of the country, this has led to environmental conditions beyond the norm for the young fledgling vultures.

“These birds are found in areas way out of their range, such as urban areas, along the highways or on busy national roads. These birds are found disorientated and unless assisted will certainly die. Lack of water and food is the prime cause for this environmental collapse of these vulture populations.”

VulPro has appealed to members of the public to contact them directly should they see or find birds that are grounded, disorientated or injured. VulPro can be contacted on 082 808 5113.

African News Agency (ANA)

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