by Pompie Burger
Cape Vulture, Gyps coprotheres
Roberts No 122
To be quite honest, I’ve never thought I’d ever become enthusiastic about vultures, especially after spending time close to a rotting carcass.
However, after a visit to REST near Otjiwarongo where Maria Diekman is in charge of the only vulture restaurant in Namibia and is heavily involved in re-establishing the near extinct Cape Vulture in the country, I’ve become a converted vulture-watcher.
Initially I was flabbergasted about the concept of a vulture restaurant, but watching the vultures eat often compares favourably to people I’ve seen diving into their steaks in a steakhouse, no offence to the vultures.
The Cape Vulture used to be quite common in Namibia, with the colony at Waterberg being the most northern breeding spot in Africa.
Unfortunately, because of the inexcusable poisoning of these birds by some farmers in Namibia, their numbers have dwindled locally to a single figure. The reintroduction effort will hopefully improve this to the extent that in a few years’ time this bird will become a regular sight in the skies over Namibia. The main difference between the Cape and White-backed Vulture is the yellow eyes of the Cape species compared to the brown eyes of the White-backed Vulture. When seeing vultures at a carcass, the Cape Vulture is by far the largest of the two.
Watching these massive birds in flight rapidly transformed me from a skeptical birdwatcher who regarded the Cape Vulture as a smelly, greedy bird, to an admirer, impressed by its flying ability and incredible eyesight. Do yourself a favour and visit this exceptional project north of Otjiwarongo. If you’re not already converted, you’ll change your mind about vultures forever!
About the author:
Based in Windhoek, Pompie Burger is an orthopaedic surgeon whose part-time passion is photography, in particular wildlife, and specifically birds. This regularly takes him to the most remote corners of the country, resulting in riveting images and articles.
Pompie is the author and photographer of the coffee table book Birds of Namibia, which was published in 2008. The book contains articles and photographs which attest to the insight and knowledge of an accomplished observer.
Read more of his articles in our Birding Section.
This article appeared in the Oct/Nov ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.