RESCUE OPERATION UNDERWAY TO SAVE SURVIVING VULTURE CHICKS AND ADULTS FROM MASS POISONING IN BWABWATA NATIONAL PARK
Schockwaves and anger flooded the conservation sector in Namibia yesterday, when reports of a mass vulture killing were made public. While numbers are unclear, it is estimated that the deliberate poisoning of vultures near a poached elephant, could range between 300 to 600.
According to vulture activist Peter Bridgeford, the vultures were deliberately poisoned by elephant poachers, who spread the poison onto the carcasses of one or two poached elephants in the Bwabwata National Park in the north-east of Namibia. The incident is reported to have taken place this past weekend.
What has further infuriated conservationists and vulture specialists in particular, is that the killed vultures were not properly identified, counted or inspected for rings before they were burnt by officials from the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
“If one rhino is poached, no expense would be spared to bring the perpetrator to justice, but possibly 600 vultures are illegally killed and it hardly causes a ripple,” Bridgeford fumed.
The high numbers of vultures that were killed come a little more than a year after a similiar number of vultures, around 300, were killed by poachers. That incident took place in the Caprivi in May 2012.
It is said that poachers poison vultures as these birds who flock to carcasses can alert officials of the poaching activities.
According to experts, vultures are facing an unsure future as a result of a number of factors. These include poisoning, habitat destruction, fatal collisions with power lines, drownings in steep sided farm reservoirs and the use of the bird in traditional medicines. This incident has been a massive blow for vulture conservation efforts and populations in Namibia.
In response to the tragedy, Maria Diekmann of the Rare and Endangered Species Trust (REST) today said that she is eagre to step in and assist where possible. Diekmann noted today that there is serious concern that several vulture chicks could be sitting high and dry without their parents, who might have been killed.
“We believe the poison was in such heavy doses that any adults that landed will be dead. But this is breeding season and there could be chicks still alive in the nests”. She and colleagues have undertaken to scout the area close to the poisoning to rescue and document where possible.