Hundreds of visitors took part in the Flight for the Plight of Vultures Air show hosted this past weekend in Otjiwarongo Namibia.
Hosted by the Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST), the event aims to spread the message of the extreme conservation challenges faced by vultures in Namibia and neighbouring countries at the moment.
According to REST founder and Flight for the Plight co-ordinator Maria Diekmann, while the event was a “fanastic fund day”, it’s real purpose was “to create awareness of a terrible trend currently taking place in Namibia and all of southern Africa”.
She said the plight of Vultures is directly linked to another scourge in Namibia and elsewhere – illegal wildlife poaching, in particular that of elephants. Poachers have devised an ingenious and horrific method of masking their killing fields, by eliminating any vultures attracting to the carcasses. By lacing the elephant carcasses with poison, after cutting out their tusks, vultures attracted to the sites are cruelly killed.
This eliminated possible detection by authorities who are not alerted to tell-tale “fly-offs”.
Diekmann explained that at REST, a decline in wild vulture populations has been documented through it’s weekly vulture restaurant feeding programme.
“Initial research is indicating that perhaps over 50 per cent or more of the entire vulture population in Namibia has been lost in one year”. She said that conservationists in Namibia, South Africa and Botswana are currently scouting for urgently needed funds to take action.
“Vultures prevent the spread of disease in our wildlife, domestic animals and human populations, so the economy of Namibia depends on them in their natural environment more than any other animal. Every animal is important, but vultures appear to be one of the few if only animals in the world that may be completely immune to diseases such as anthrax. This makes them vital to the health of both other animals and humans”.
This year’s Flight for the Plight saw aircraft demonstrations ranging from the Namibian Air Force jets flying in formation, Namibian fly-in tour operators strutting their stuff in the sky and private pilots flying a range of planes, ultra-lights, radio controlled plants, helicopters, trikes and much more.
Diekmann said that the “Desert Sky divers were a huge hit with the public, and helped REST raffle off a main prize of N$8 000 and some other fantastic prizes offered by various businesses in Otjiwarongo”.
Diekmann also gave a shout-out to private citizens from Otjiwarongo extending a ehlping hand to organise the events, and businesses such as Edugate Academy, Wimpy and Air Namibia for helping in various ways.