Monday July 22, 2024

Vultures, one of world’s most misunderstood creatures, on verge of extinction

VulPro, a non-profit organisation in South Africa, is working to conserve and rehabilitate the mighty birds

By Web Desk
February 23, 2024
the image shows two vultures sharing food. — X/@WeLoveVultures
the image shows two vultures sharing food. — X/@WeLoveVultures

There are 22 vulture species in the world, out of which 14 are currently under the threat of extinction, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa — home to four critically endangered species of the bird. 

Vulpro, a non-profit organisation (NPO) based in South Africa, is working to conserve and rehabilitate these mighty birds at the threat of extinction, CNN reported.

Last month, a combination of 160 African and Cape white-backed vultures were moved 1,049 kilometres to the Shamwari Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape by VulPro.

Over 50 workers from NPO WeWild Africa, which specialises in animal rewilding and translocation, and the logistics business DHL were involved in the operation.

The NPO has relocated a large number of birds up until now, some accredited to its breeding programme. 

The goal of the relocation is to create new populations and increase the number of vultures living in the wild.

"I had the opportunity to hand-raise a vulture whom we still have today," says Kerri Wolter, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of VulPro.

"He was 10 days old, and he fit in my hands, and I have fairly small hands. It was at that very moment that I actually understood how fragile and misunderstood the species were."

Large raptors, such as vultures, "had experienced significantly steeper declines than smaller species," with declines most severe in West Africa and "more than twice as severe outside of protected areas", according to a study on the African savannah raptors released earlier this year.

Wolter notes that in parts of KwaZulu-Natal, along South Africa's eastern coast, the white-headed vulture is "now extinct as a breeding species," largely at the hands of humans.

Given that vultures have excellent vision that is "eight times better than humans," according to South African veterinarian Dr Johan Joubert, some individuals in South Africa kill them in the hopes of developing clairvoyant abilities. 

Some people think that sleeping with a skull beneath your pillow, inhaling a vulture's brain, or wrapping the bird's foot around your neck might all bring good luck.