Vultures are facing extinction across Africa as mass poisonings by poachers are continuing to reduce the numbers of the vulnerable species.
In the latest incident, over 100 dead vultures and a hyena were discovered on Thursday morning after feeding on a dead buffalo near a fence bordering a village in the Kruger National Park.
SANParks said that the buffalo appeared to have been laced with poison and the vultures and hyena appeared to have fed off the carcass.
A further 20 vultures were discovered at the scene in a bad condition – and rushed to Shingwedzi and Moholoholo rehabilitation centres.
Yolan Friedman, CEO of the Endangered Wildlife Trust, said poisonings at this scale place the species at increasing risk of extinction.
Mass poisonings in Africa are successive and frequent, driving several species of African vultures to extinction. This affects not just the populations of the birds themselves but the surrounding environment, as vultures are essential for the ecosystem.
Gareth Coleman, the Park’s managing executive, described the poisonings as a “reprehensible act” that “once again highlights the ever-present danger of poisoning by unscrupulous people.
“We cannot afford to let our guard down and we call on law enforcement agencies outside the park to move swiftly to arrest the perpetrators.”
Rangers suspect that poachers cut out the meat from the buffalo and lace the rest of the carcass with poison, targeting the vultures.
This is likely due to the fact that vultures help rangers track poachers. When vultures circle a carcass, rangers can see them from miles away. Therefore, poachers kill the birds so that they are less likely to be found.
The most endangered species are the white-backed vulture, the hooded vulture and the white-headed vulture.