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‘Farmers, help save vultures’

As in the rest of the country and across Africa, vultures are declining locally at an alarming rate.

In the Western Cape there are not many vultures left. However, there is a Cape Vulture colony in the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Potberg Mountains.

Cape Vultures require cliff faces for nesting, and the Potberg Mountains are ideal for this. However, this is the only remaining colony in the Western Cape, with about 200 left.

It is therefore considered important that communities, especially the farmers and landowners in these areas, continue to support these vulture populations.

Over the last three decades some African vulture species have declined by as much as 80%.

Halting such decline is the reason why the organisation VulPro exists, its goal being to provide every vulture with a chance to survive, and in this way help stop their decline.

This non-profit, based on the southern side of the Magaliesberg Mountains, outside Hartbeespoort in North West province, operates throughout South Africa, working to preserving these significant birds.

“We conduct our conservation work through rescue, rehabilitation and release, captive breeding for population supplementation and ongoing research into vultures and the threats they face,” Caroline Hannweg of VulPro told Standard. “One way we help vultures to survive in the wild is through working with farmers and landowners across the country.”

She says some of the most important people in the conservation of vultures are farmers. About 80% of the land that vultures use is not within protected areas. Farmers own a large percentage of this land, so it is regarded as their responsibility and that of landowners to make their land safe and useful for vultures and other species, as they have the resources to ensure their survival.

“Farmers can provide vultures with safe feeding by creating vulture restaurants on their farms, with carcasses that are safe for vultures to eat,” Hannweg says.

“Farmers that do not use certain toxins on their farms can ensure vultures are not poisoned. They can also ensure it is safe for them to feed, luring them away from areas that have power lines, which vultures sometimes collide with, causing injury or death. Any carcasses found under power lines can be moved to safer spaces to avoid collisions with power lines.

“Or, they can make sure any power lines on their land are bird-friendly to avoid collisions or electrocutions.”

Farmers can also help conserve vultures by covering reservoirs with netting to prevent vultures from drowning when trying to drink or bathing in them. They can also get help for downed or injured vultures on their property.

“They can play another important role in keeping vultures from extinction by sustaining tall trees on their farms,” says Hannweg.

“Tall trees are good for roosting and breeding vultures, and by sustaining them farmers and landowners also keep vultures from roosting on dangerous power lines. Finally, farmers can help gather data for further research on vultures in their area.

“By keeping records of the vultures on their farms and sharing this information with conservation bodies such as VulPro they provide invaluable information that can help conserve these birds.”

For more information on VulPro and vultures, one can visit the organisation’s website, www.vulpro.com, or email info@vulpro.com. It is also on social media and on YouTube.

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