Just a few days after South African colleagues rescued a number of vultures from a poisoning incident in Zimbabwe, the silent killer strikes again: recently a research team came across the carcases of two nyala, a warthog and an impala laced with what they describe as a black granular poison near the Machampane tourist camp, in the Mozambican reserve, just across from the Kruger park in South Africa.
Lying nearby were two lions, 51 vultures, three fish eagles, a yellow-billed kite and a giant eagle owl. The lions had been dismembered, and their bones removed, presumably for the thriving trade in lion bones, on high demand in Asia. Many vultures had also been decapitated, their heads presumably to be used for traditional medicine.
The carcasses were promptly burned by conservation staff, to try to prevent further poisonings.
The plight of African vultures has reached the international conservation agenda, with several species declining rapidly, up to the point that the IUCN decided to downgrade the conservations status of 6 species, including 4 that became now critically endangered.
One of the main factors leading to this decline is the widespread use of poison in the African continent, against predators, or sometimes used by poachers to kill elephant and lions. In the last few years many cases of massive poisoning of vultures have been reported, mostly in eastern and southern Africa.
This article was first published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation 11 October 2016