Ringing in Namib Naukluft Park
Monitoring and ringing of Lappet-faced Vultures (LFV) in the Namib-Naukluft Park started in 1991, but it was not until 2000 that the first aerial survey took place. Although expensive, an aerial survey is the the most cost-effective way of finding nests with breeding birds scattered over hundreds of square kilometres. It particularly reduces off road driving in sensitive areas.
The aerial survey begins in early October just before the young birds fledge. During the aerial survey, the coordinates of occupied nests are stored on a GPS by spotters during 20 – 24 hours of flying using up to 970 litres of fuel.
After the aerial survey a ground crew travel from nest to nest using the collated GPS coordinates. Chicks are removed from the nests for weighing, ringing and tagging while the size of the nest is also recorded. The crew returns later in the season to ring the chicks which are too small to ring. The numbers on the patagial tags are large enough to be recorded on strategic camera traps at various waterholes in the NNP.
Up to 100 chicks can be ringed in good years by a crew travelling up to 6264 km over several months
The advantage of marking birds is that it helps extrapolate the risks that potentially threaten a species. The pooling of information indicates trends of populations, threats to healthy habitats and even global trends of vulture populations.
Anyone can participate in the monitoring programme by attempting to get photographic evidence of patagial tag number and location and reporting it to: https://www.facebook.com/seevultures/
Another good source of information is the Endangered Wildlife Trust: https://www.ewt.org.za who actively support the Namibian Vulture ringing project with equipment and training.
Many very generous individuals and organisations participate in and contribute to this valuable project to protect this iconic and magnificent bird.
The Marc Durr Award for outstanding contributions to Vultures Namibia
Current holder: Mark Boorman