Catastrophic vulture poisoning in Botswana 'one of biggest ever'


Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has announced that a massive vulture poisoning has taken place in the country this week.

The horrific totals include 537 dead vultures of five species as well as two Tawny Eagles, making it one of the biggest poisoning events in history and an unprecedented blow to Africa's already imperilled vulture populations.

A breakdown of the vulture victims is as follows: 10 Cape (Endangered), 14 Lappet-faced (Endangered), 17 White-headed (Critically Endangered), 28 Hooded (Critically Endangered) and an astonishing 468 White-backed Vultures (Critically Endangered).

The vast majority of the victims were Critically Endangered White-backed Vultures, like those shown here at a Burchell's Zebra carcass (Charles J Sharp).

The poisoning, which took place in an area known as Wildlife Management Area CT 1, in the country's Central District, was believed to have been caused by lacing of three poached elephant carcasses with a poisonous chemical that leads to significant mortality in vultures and eagles.

The law enforcement team attending the scene is working around the clock to decontaminate the area. Sampling of carcasses and the environment has been done for further laboratory analysis.

In a post on its Facebook page, vulture conservation NGO Vulpro said: "This is one of the biggest knocks to vultures in our history.

"It is the breeding season so many of the victims are adults, which means not only are they directly affected but their eggs/chicks will have died too and, as vultures are monogamous, we have lost those breeding pairs to the wild populations. This is very real and, without intervention, we will lose our vultures."

Members of the public in the vicinity of this catastophic event have been asked to keep an eye out for and report any potentially related wildlife mortalities. DWNP has strongly urged anyone to desist from engaing in illegal acts and report any suspicious activities which may suggest environmental poisoning to the nearest wildlife office or the police.