Although many vultures breed in national parks, game reserves and protected areas, they often feed on farms and communal areas. Here they become victims of the unrelenting struggle between farmers and predatory mammals attacking domestic livestock.
Below are several factors responsible for the decline in vulture populations throughout Southern Africa.
Indiscriminate use of poisons has led to the disappearance of many vultures and other birds of prey from much of Southern Africa. Birds are far more efficient at finding baited carcasses than jackals or hyenas. As a result, vultures all too often consume poisons laid down for problem predators and become unintended victims. In this way, poisons can wipe out an entire colony of vultures.
The large herds of migrating game on which the vultures traditionally depended have now been replaced over most of Southern Africa by domesticated stock. In some areas, stock carcasses are buried and not left for vultures to feed on. In addition, improvements in animal husbandry have resulted in fewer livestock mortalities and therefore less food for vultures.
Over-grazing by domestic stock results in dense stands of trees and shrubs. This results in carcasses being obscured from aerial view and the space surrounding carcasses limited, which restricts the ability of vultures to land and take-off.
The burgeoning human population leads to habitat destruction and degradation. Poor agricultural practices such as ‘slash-and-burn’, reduces nesting and roosting sites.
Direct persecution and disturbance
Through ignorance and a misunderstanding of their habits, vultures are sometimes shot, poisoned or even stoned on their nests. Well-meaning people may inadvertently disturb breeding birds by venturing too close to the nests. This leads to the parent birds deserting their eggs or nestlings.
Electrocution and power line collision
Vultures are sometimes electrocuted when roosting on electricity poles and pylons. Vultures may be injured when colliding with overhead wires and stays.
Drowning in farm reservoirs
Vultures, other birds of prey and many smaller birds are drowned in straight-sided farm water reservoirs. Birds attempting to reach the water fall in and drown. This can be avoided by attachiing a pole, branch, ladder or wooden plank to the side of the reservoir enabling the wet bird to clamber out.
Illegal collection of eggs and body parts of vultures
The traditional medicine trade often targets vultures and other birds of prey as they are considered to have magical and potent healing powers.