Mass poisoning of vultures in Africa


Just a week after the Conference of the Parties of the Convention for Migratory Species enthusiastically endorsed and adopted the Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan, yet another mass poisoning of vultures has taken place in Africa.

The bodies of 49 vultures – as well as two jackals – were found in Limpopo National Park, Mozambique‚ just across the border from South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The dead animals were found by rangers, who were investigating two poaching camps as part of an anti-poaching programme in the trans-border area, funded by the Peace Parks Foundation.

Rangers suspect that the poachers had laced a number of antelope carcasses with poisonous chemicals with the intention of poaching lions, whose body parts are in increasing demand for both local and Far Eastern traditional medicine. In the first incident, 37 dead vultures and two jackals were found next to poisoned carcasses of a waterbuck‚ wildebeest and impala. At the second site the poisoned carcass of a zebra was surrounded by the remains of 12 more vultures.

Vulture declines are at their steepest in Africa, where the birds are particularly vulnerable to mass die-offs from poison baits laid out to kill other high-value species. Just last year, almost 150 vultures were killed in two poison incidents in northern Botswana. In Zambia, 105 vultures were poisoned in South Luangwa National Park and another 56 vultures were killed on the boundaries of Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park.

Previously widespread African vulture species are now afforded the highest threat category, facing the very realistic danger of extinction and thus are of serious conservation concern. Hooded, African White-backed, Rüppell's and White-headed Vultures are all listed as Critically Endangered, with Cape Vulture classified as Endangered. The latest poisonings are a stark reminder of why the Vulture Multi-Species Action Plan was desperately needed, and Vulture Conservation Foundation hopes all will rally behind the document to contribute to its implementation.