Engines and More are very proud to announce our adoption of a female Cape Vulture housed at VulPro’s rehabilitation centre that we have named “Lexi”. VulPro’s rehabilitation centre is situated just a few km’s from our business premises.
Vultures and other avian scavengers play a very important ecological role in clearing the veld of carcasses. By rapidly consuming remains of dead animals, vultures can prevent these carcasses from acting as host to various diseases that may spread to livestock. They can also alert farmers to dead stock, in this way potential disease outbreaks can be avoided.
Vultures play a vital role in helping landowners get rid of carcasses which are unfit for human consumption and which would normally have been ‘hygienically’ disposed of by burning or burying.
A really important fact is that vultures consume more carcasses than all the other scavengers put together, the loss of our vultures would guarantee that we would experience rotting, disease ridden carcasses left in the veld and on farm land.
Lexi the Cape Vulture Tag B649
Lexi came in to Vulpro on the 3rd of August 2012. She was collected in Muldersdrift suffering from organophosphate poisoning. Organophosphate poisoning is a terrible experience for vultures – if they survive at all. It causes severe neurological issues which can result in a permanent high stepping action, which as a result of her poisoning Lexi has. Untreated organophosphate poisoning often leads to death and an awful death at that, even with treatment, a vulture’s chance of surviving are very slim.
Only the strong survive in nature, and sadly her high stepping action leaves Lexi vulnerable to the perception from the other vultures that she is weak and resulting in her being dominated by the other birds in the wild, this makes her non releasable for her own survival. In the wild this “discrimination” could lead to her not getting sufficient food at a carcass. Where survival of the fittest counts, the “weaker” birds are seen as a weak link and perceived negatively by the other vultures and ostracised accordingly.
It is important to understand that Cape Vulture colonies only survive with sufficient numbers of resident birds. When a colony’s numbers drop too low the breeding colony disbands and the colony becomes extinct. In a race for survival, every healthy individual is vital to the survival of the species. Weakness is weeded out for the survival of the colony, this may seem harsh to us, but living on cliff faces and fighting for food and the man made threats that vultures face in their fight to survive means that there is just no room left to carry the weak.
Clip of a deceased vulture from organophosphate poisoning
This bird suffered from seizures for 2 days starting every 2 hours and increasing to every few minutes. These seizures then progressed to every few seconds and continuously until the bird was euthanised. During the 2 day process, the bird was being treated for organophosphate poisoning with no success and no signs of improvement.
In 2015, the IUCN Conservation Status of several species were ‘uplisted’ based on their rate of decline. African vultures are facing several threats, making their conservation not a simple task. Poisoning incidences seem to be on the rise, or at least are much more regularly reported. Poisonings occur from a few means – poachers lace elephant or rhino carcasses to intentionally kill vultures and as scavengers vultures inevitably ingest any poison implemented to kill other animals (either ‘problem’ animals like jackals or leopards) or prized animals targeted by poachers. While a single poisoned elephant can kill hundreds of vultures, wiping out an entire colony or local population, power line electrocutions and collisions are the most profuse threats to vultures in South Africa. The power line grid is expansive and often structures are out of date and unsafe for the large birds to perch. Superstitious beliefs are prominent, creating a demand for vulture parts, especially the head (brains, eyes) and feet, in the establishment of luck and forecasting the outcomes of events like soccer matches. As humans have expanded over the South African landscape, carcasses from natural deaths are sparse, prompting the creation of over 250 vulture restaurants over Southern Africa. These sites provision food specifically for vulture populations mostly from pig and cattle farm mortalities. These sites are strictly managed as some Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used on cattle can be, even in small amounts, lethal to vultures. Diclofenac in particular (Voltaren for people) caused the deaths of millions of vultures on the Indian Subcontinent in the early 2000’s.
Visit VulPro’s website for more information.