Vulture Namibia rings a new record 100 chicks

WINDHOEK: The Lappet-faced vultures, with its stronghold in the Namib-Naukluft Park, have set a new breeding record with 100 chicks during 2014.

The previous record was 89 chicks ringed in 2007, according to Peter Bridgeford from Vulture Namibia.

He said in a media statement issued on Monday that 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.

“The main breeding area between the Swakop and Kuiseb rivers accounted for the most nests, but further south, from the Kuiseb River to Sossusvlei, breeding was higher than expected,” said Bridgeford.

The 100th chick was ringed in the Tsauchab River, leading to Sossusvlei.

“Volunteers from Vultures Namibia, who have been monitoring and ringing the chicks in their nests, are delighted at the higher than normal number of birds found and ringed,” he said.

The success of the past breeding season is probably due to a number of factors. Bridgeford said that the first is the excellent aerial survey carried out to locate the nesting vultures from the air and secondly, increased breeding is likely due to dry conditions and an abundant supply of food.

He added that the limited grazing in several areas could be to the advantage of the vultures as the drought takes its toll.

Although many vultures breed in protected areas, they feed on farms and fly to neighbouring countries.

Landowners, however, use poison to control predators attacking their domestic stock and that in turn poison the vultures who feed off dead animals.

Bridgeford pointed out that the mass poisoning of elephant carcasses is a new threat to vultures, explaining that poachers poison elephant carcasses after removing the tusks to stop vultures betraying the slaughter of these animals. Vultures are ‘eyes-in-the-sky’ and alert police and conservation officials to carcasses. This alarming trend has killed hundreds of vultures in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and East Africa, said Bridgeford.

Other dangers to vultures are drowning in steep-sided water reservoirs, collisions with power lines, electrocutions on electricity pylons and use in traditional medicine.