We were at a hotel in Vic Falls and witnessed the vulture feeding frenzy. Totally appalling. The birds were arriving early waiting on tree tops to be fed. The game guide threw pieces of chopped up meat and bones onto a sandy patch and hundreds of these vultures descended causing a dusty, furore where they shrieked and climbed upon each other in search of a scrap of meat. The tourists witnessed this dreadful feeding frenzy using their long lensed cameras in a haze of dust. Quite honestly they have turned what should be a natural function into a commercialized gimmick for tourists. It should be banned. Let the birds resort to their natural habitats and feed as nature intended. Jane
Interesting questions asked by Trevor! Vulture poisoning, whether deliberately targeting vultures, or as a side effect of poisoning of other species, is a huge concern in Southern Africa and indeed anywhere where these valuable scavengers exist and clean up our environment. I refer readers to the excellent Vulpro website project manager Kerri Wolter.... www.vulpro.com/
Last year (2013) conservative estimates put poison-related vulture deaths at 400- 600 individuals in Namibia during one incident, approximately 180 in Gonarezhou National Park and several hundred in South Africa. Note: these are the incidents we know about. Vultures are being poisoned for two reasons: their body parts (such as upper mandible) are used for traditional ceremonies and secondly, congregations of vultures are a sign of poaching. So poachers are trying to systematically eradicate them. Additionally, the use of Diclofenac in the treatment of livestock has had a negative impact on vulture populations.
Vultures are long-lived and reproduce very slowly. They produce an average of 1 chick every second year. At the rate we are heading in Southern Africa, we will soon reach the 98% decline in all species that West Africa has already achieved. I do not believe there is an option of worrying about "survival of the fittest" or fretting about if some individuals become reliant on vulture restaurants. We will be lucky if the genus survives. It is a race to the finish line of extinction. Will it be the Rhino, or the critically endangered Cape Vulture (Cape Griffon)? Any genetic material retained in living birds is precious.
A tough one Mike, but I really think that we humans are interfering with nature too much and at the end of the day the Vulture restaurants are only created by people out to make more money. How have they survived (apart from when man poisons them) for years without "their restaurants"? What happened to the age old "game or vulture spotting? Vikki , Plett
I WOULD THINK THAT WITH COMPETITION BETWEEN BIRDS AT THE FEEDING SITE THE “SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST” PRINCIPAL WILL STILL HOLD? MAYBE NOT AS IN THE WILD BUT CERTAINLY IF THEY BECOME DEPENDENT ON THE THREE FEEDING SITES THEN THERE IS GOING TO BE SERIOUS COMPETITION AND THE FITTER AND STRONGER BIRDS WILL DOMINATE
PERHAPS THIS COULD BE A RESEARCH PROJECT FOR AN MSC STUDENT? PETER MUNDY HAS STUDENTS NEEDING RESEARCH PROJECTS.
WITH THE LAND ISSUE AND GENERAL LAWLESSNESS, WILDLIFE IS PROBABLY LOWER THAN NORMAL SO FEEDING THE VULTURES WILL ASSIST THEM BUT MAY ALSO CREATE A RELIANCE IN HUMAN BENEVOLENCE AS TREVOR SAID. HOWEVER BEING EXTREMELY MOBILE SCAVENGERS WITH AMAZING EYESIGHT, IT MAY BE THAT IF A VULTURE RESTAURANT CLOSED FOR SOME REASON, THEY WILL STILL BE ABLE TO FIND A FOOD SOURCE?
A RESEARCH STUDENT COULD WEIGH AND EVALUATE THE FEED AVAILABLE AT THE FEEDING SITES AND PERHAPS WORK OUT IF THE FEED IS SUPPLYING ALL THE X NUMBER OF VULTURES REQUIREMENTS ETC.