Saturday, December 3, 2022

Vultures collateral damage in human, wildlife conflict- BirdLife Botswana

Vultures have often become the unintended victims of the rampant human/wildlife conflict in northern Botswana, according to BirdLife Botswana (BLB).

The organisation says some cases of poisoned vultures are a result of an attempt by disgruntled farmers to kill predators preying on their livestock.

“Human wildlife conflict seems to be the precursor of poisoning by farmers as they attempt to kill livestock predators using poisons. For this reason, BirdLife Botswana and other local conservation NGOs are making efforts through their various project interventions to help local communities address human wildlife conflict,” BLB Director Motshereganyi Virat Kootsositse said in a statement following the recent illegal killing of at least 50 vultures that died after feeding on a poisoned buffalo.

He said it was evident that more work still needs to be done around human/wildlife conflict solutions. The Director said in a statement that cross border collaborations are imperative for a more collective vocal approach.

“Probably a change in strategy, regulation of poison and review of related policy may also be necessary. The need for a more collaborative and participatory approach by all sectors cannot be overemphasised at this particular juncture. It is a fact that the rate at which reports are being received in Botswana especially around Chobe shows that we could be spiralling into a very unfortunate situation of local and complete decimation of vulture species unless some work is done to address this challenge soon.”

He said BLB calls for any interested stakeholders to join hands in any way they can in an effort to help the survival of vulture populations in Botswana and the region.

He said while the number of dead vultures in the most recent incident may seem relatively low, it is in fact very high when taking consideration of the already dwindling local population of vultures.

“For the first time in Botswana, we witnessed a report of an incident where vultures had missing body parts that were clearly cut off. Observations from the scene show heads, feet and internal organs removed from these vultures with a sharp object suspected to be a knife. It is suspected that body parts were opportunistically extracted by the public because the incident occurred less than 20m away from a regularly-used track. It is not clear whether body parts were cut off by locals or cross boarder poachers.”

Kootsositse said some studies done in other countries in southern Africa to establish body parts used by traditional practitioners for healing human ailments indicate a strong preference for vulture head, brain, claw, beak, bones and feathers. He said the use of vulture body parts by traditional healers has also exacerbated the demise of vulture populations in the region at large.

“It is disheartening to observe that over the past decade, reports of vultures perishing due to poisoning have been registered almost annually in Botswana except during the Covid-19 pandemic years.”

At least 537 vultures were reported dead in the Chobe region in 2019. The vultures also perished at single spot due to poisoning linked to poaching. BLB says at least 2000 vultures have been killed in the country over the past decade. “It is worth noting that for one vulture death, pairs are lost, and chicks that are dependent on some dead vultures will not survive. This results in a secondary ecological ripple effect that breaks the otherwise desired positive population growth. This therefore means the loss is more than what we can see,” BLB Director said.

He said many of the reports come from areas around or near protected areas. “So far, the highest numbers of vultures perishing at one spot are from the Chobe area where anti-poaching efforts by the Botswana government have comparatively been stepped up. The area is prone to cross boarder poaching where poachers and rangers have been reported to exchange fire on some occasions.”

BirdLife Botswana is a Non-Governmental Organisation that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. BirdLife Botswana is an official BirdLife International Partner in Botswana.

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