The Northern Capeís vultures
Two species of vulture are relatively common in the Northern Cape. The African White-backed Vulture has colonies around Kimberley (c. 300 pairs) and in the Kalahari (see article on aerial survey of Kimberley colonies). The Lappet-faced Vulture only breeds in the Kalahari (the last pair nesting in the Kimberley area disappeared a few years ago). The White-headed Vulture is occasionally seen in the northern parts of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where it probably nests in small numbers. The Cape Vulture is extinct as a breeding species in the Northern Cape, but is occasionally seen in the Province and especially in the south-eastern Karoo and the Kimberley area. The Palm-nut and Egyptian Vultures are vagrants to the Northern Cape.
Research on vultures
Mark Anderson has been studying African White-backed Vultures since 1993. This work, done in collaboration with Angus Anthony, and a team of keen Kimberley biologists and bird-watchers, is conducted on De Beersí Dronfield Game Farm. The main aim of this work is to mark a number of vulture nestlings annually, with metal rings and initially with colour-rings, but latterly with patagial tags. This project provides useful information on movements, mortality factors, nest site fidelity, etc. A study is also currently underway to investigate the effects of climate change on this population of vultures.
GPS transmitters fitted to vultures
This year, with funding from the Hawk Conservancy, De Beers and Gauntlet, we attached GPS-units to four vulture nestlings. The movements of these birds are now monitored on a daily basis (and can be tracked on www.birdlife.org.za; thanks to Kevin Ravno of Natural World for his help with the maps).
South African raptor conservationists pioneered the idea of vulture restaurants (places where safe food can be supplied to vultures). More information about vulture restaurants and a booklet on this exciting conservation initiative can be obtained from the Birds of Prey Working Group (contact Erika Belz at firstname.lastname@example.org)
There is a vulture restaurant and hide at De Beersí Dronfield Game Farm, located just north of Kimberley. More information can be obtained from Mark Anderson.
Asian vulture crisis
Mark Anderson was involved in the Asian vulture crisis and attended meetings in the USA, Hungary and Kenya. There were initial concerns that if a disease was killing Asiaís vultures it may spread to Africa. It was recently found however that a veterinary drug, diclofenac, has been responsible for the catastrophic decline in the number of vultures in South Asia. Several articles have been published on the implications of the Asian Vulture Crisis for vultures in Africa:
Anderson, M.D. 2002. The Asian vulture crisis. Could it happen in Africa? Africa Birds & Birding 5: 50-53.
Anderson, M.D. & Benson, P. 2003. Veterinary drug implicated in vulture crash. Africa Birds & Birding 8(4): 12.
Anderson, M.D. & Mundy, P.J. 2001. The demise of vultures in southern Asia: mortality factors and a risk to African vultures. South African Journal of Science 97: 342-344.
Anderson, M.D., Piper, S.E. & Swan, G.E. 2005. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in South Africa and possible effects on vultures. South African Journal of Science 101: 112-114.