This year has seen a dramatic increase in vulture poisonings particularly in southern Africa. At current levels many species of African vulture will become extinct within our lifetimes.Poisoned White-backed vultures in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, South Africa. Photo courtesy of A. Botha
Since May at least 1,500 White-backed, Cape, Lappet-faced, and Hooded Vultures have perished at carcasses laced with cyanide, and carbofuran (Furadan) and carbosulfan pesticides. Poisoning of carcasses has occurred in Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In the past vultures were mainly unintentional victims of baited carcasses targeting predators, now vultures are usually the intended targets. (Read more: Mass Poisonings Devastate African Wildlife, Incite “Urgent Measures”)
Vultures are targeted because they give away the location of poacher’s illicit activities and increasingly they are targeted for their heads, which are widely used in traditional medicine, particularly in South Africa and throughout West Africa. The increasingly common sight of headless vulture carcasses indicates the demand for vulture heads is increasing.
Vulture heads are believed to have clairvoyant powers. Because vultures have excellent eyesight, it is believed their heads allow one to see into the future and thus predict the outcomes of presidential elections, gambling competitions, and even the lottery. Surely if vultures could see into the future they would opt to fly elsewhere because for vultures in Africa, the future is grim.