Friday 19 December 2014

Lappet faced vultures have their best recorded breeding season in Namibia

Lappet-faced vultures breed over most of Namibia. One of their strongholds is the Namib-Naukluft Park. This year the Lappets in the Park have raised 100 chicks.

The breeding success of these large vultures has been monitored for the past 24 years and it is the first time that 100 chicks have been found and ringed. They nest in very tops of trees and the best way to spot them is from aircraft flying low and slow. Normally there is only one egg per nest but occasionally twins are seen.

Over the past few years there have been good rains in the Namib-Naukluft Park which have resulted in increased breeding of Gemsbok, Springbok, Hartmann's Mountain Zebra and Ostrich. Now, during the drought, the limited grazing in several areas could be to the advantage of the vultures, as more animals succumb to the harsh conditions.

Although many vultures breed in protected areas, they also feed on farms and fly to neighbouring
countries. Some landowners, who use poison to control predators attacking their domestic stock, also poison the vultures in the process.

Poachers poison an elephant carcass after removing the tusks to stop vultures betraying the slaughter of these animals. The vultures are 'eyes-in-the-sky' and alert police and conservation officials. This
alarming trend has killed many hundreds of vultures in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and countries in East Africa.

Vulture populations all over Africa have suffered a massive crash in the last 10 years or so due to poison and also from Diclofenac used by farmers to treat sick cattle. The Diclofenac destroys the vultures renal system and also stops their eggs from hatching.

The loss of 96% of India's vultures caused huge health problems in that country. Rotting carcasses of cattle encourage disease and an increase in the number of feral dogs. If it weren't for vultures the plains of the Serengeti would be littered with hundreds of thousands of dead Wildebeeste every year and I suspect the smell would be pretty awful.

Good to see they have had an excellent breeding year. I hope their numbers continue to recover all over Africa and Asia.

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