Poisoned to extinction: a bold new approach to saving Africa’s vultures

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Illegal wildlife can cause a chain reaction of disastrous effects in the environment, for example one poisoned elephant carcass can cause the death of up to 500 Critically Endangered vultures.

To prevent this from happening, a rapid response is needed. For the first time, an anti-poisoning training event is being held in Kenya, organised by BirdLife and a consoritum of concerned conservation bodies which aims to reduce the deaths of wildlife.

This historic training event is being held 15-16 November 2016, bringing together 37 participants representing 30 local conservation partners at Ilkeliani Camp, bordering the world famous Masai Mara Reserve. The important training will focus on identifying the signs and symptoms of wildlife poisoning, prompt reporting, incident scene treatment, collection of good information and sterilising the scene to prevent further poisoning.

Vultures poisoned near Masai Mara, Kenya © E. Reson

Vultures, being nature’s most important clean-up crew, are the hardest hit by indiscriminate poisoning, typically targeted at predators such as lions and hyenas. Wildlife rangers based on the ground are usually first to notice poisoning incidents, but are not always aware of the signs, symptoms, and steps to take following an incident. This course will provide training and solutions to enable rangers and others working on the ground in the Mara to limit the impact of individual poisoning events.

Julius Arinaitwe, Regional Director for Africa at explained:

“The unique abilities of vultures that make them very effective scavengers, such as the keen eyesight that helps them spot carcases and signal to others over large distances makes them especially vulnerable poisoning events. For example one poisoned elephant carcass has been known to cause the death of up to 500 Critically Endangered vultures drawn from tens of kilometres away. BirdLife therefore considers this training to be of paramount importance in efforts to halt declines across Africa.”

This workshop is the result of an ongoing collaboration between BirdLife International, the Mara Lion Project, Nature Kenya(BirdLife in Kenya) and The Peregrine Fund, and is part of a larger project aimed at developing a formal poisoning response protocol in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service. Co-hosts and funders of the event also include the San Diego Zoo, Fondation Segré, Nature Kenya, and African Wildlife Foundation.

Rangers identifying poisoned White-backed andRüppell’svultures ©J. Wahome

This training will become a catalyst for a postive chain reaction for vultures: following this two-day workshop, trainees will commit to disseminating their learning by delivering subsequent training to their respective teams. Each trainee will also become a main point of contact within his/her local area for all issues relating to wildlife poisoning. Also, it is the hope of these organisations and projects that a formal, systematic response to poisoning incidents will deter people from this destructive practice and help reduce the number of wildlife dying from illegal poisoning.

You can support BirdLife’s vital work in Africa to save vultures today by donatingand by spreading the love for vultures amongst your friends, colleagues and family.

This article was first published by BirdLife International on 16 Nov 2016.


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Janet Kenedy

Seeing these pictures is very Heartbreaking 🙁 . The quicker Humans leave this earth for Mars..the better!!
Innocent, Natural Predators, surviving daily life as we do, wiped out by “Unevolved Barbarians”!!

Jean Marie Prevost
Jean Marie Prevost

It is terrifying how humans are responding to nature and dirupting the whole terestrian ecosystems; for what???? The lessons learned in the nineties in India are not sufficiently clear, with the problems related to diclofenac poisonning. It is extended now to africa for the profit of the chinese chemico-pharmaceutical industry, but certainly not for the local peoples. Really disgusting… I hope very strongly that those people trying to save the vulture populations will be totaly successfull.

Arlene Labbe

TERRIBLE. They are much needed and deserve to live.

M Leybra
M Leybra

“It is the hope” that a systematic response by these trainees to poisoning incidents in their area will deter people from indiscriminate poisoning, typically targeted at predators such as lions and hyenas. Sounds like a plan tho’ not something that will stop the wholesale slaughter of all of Africa’s wildlife from every possible direction.

george mira

Poisoning is the method through which humans of the past couple centuries have done the greatest extinguishing of life. Stopping poisoning is, outside of establishing large, well-protected preserves, perhaps the single most protective on-the-ground thing that can be done. Should one be interested at all in preventing the wholesale slaughter of Africa’s wildlife, one might engage in every aspect, from actively interacting with political public servants to enact laws against importation and traffic of animal bodies and parts, to supporting the organizations that seek to end this slaughter. One can also actually take enough personal interest to observe the wild… Read more »

Robert Piller
Robert Piller

Sometimes you just feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.

george mira

The question, then: Should it matter that one fights “losing” battles? The understanding by conservation scientists like Michael Soule’ of the fact that the soaring (I purposely used the word searing above to mean that we savage the earth like fire with our uncontrolled increasing population) human population and its creation of ever more parasitic niches upon the earth is for the present expanding, has also led them, along with indigenous traditional peoples and individuals aware enough to observe that: humans are not exempt from depopulating events. Even should our kind ravage the entire earth, depleting it of species excepting… Read more »