17 December 2010

Poisoning drives vulture decline

Vulture populations in one of Africa's most crucial wildlife reserves have declined by 60%, say scientists. home

The researchers recommend that the decline of vultures in Kenya's Masai Mara is being driven by poisoning.

The US-based Peregrine Fund says farmers sometimes lace the bodies of useless cattle or goats using a poisonous pesticide termed furadan.

This appears to be aimed at carnivores that destroy the livestock, but a person carcass can poison up to 150 vultures.

Munir Virani, who's director of the Peregrine Fund's Africa programmes, has termed for use of furadan to be banned from the area "to protect these keystone members of the scavenging community".

"People may think about vultures as ugly and disgusting, but the birds are vital for that ecosystem," he says.

Their taste for carrion truly helps make them the landscape's clean-up crew - making certain the area just isn't littered with bodies, helping comprise the spread of condition and recycling vitamins.

The results of this most current survey of vultures are revealed from the journal Biological Conservation.

The terrible consequences of a vulture population crash have already been demonstrated in the course of a case that became often known as the Asian vulture crisis.

Populations of Gyps vultures particularly, in South Asia, crashed by over 95% over just a few years from the 1990s, mostly due to the fact farmers handled their cattle with the pain-killing drug diclofenac.

The pain-killer, it turned out, was lethal towards the vultures, which fed within the useless cattle.

Also as driving three species of vulture towards the brink of extinction, the crisis supplied a huge quantity of meals for wild dogs, which moved in to get the site of the birds.

This had the devastating side-effect of growing the spread of rabies. And Dr Virani is involved that a similar situation could happen in Kenya.

The resolution in Africa however, could be a lot more simple than in South Asia.

By boosting the general public picture of vultures from the country, the Peregrine Fund hopes to cease individuals from carrying out these "revenge poisoning attacks".

Among 2003 and 2005, Dr Virani and his colleagues drove across the expansive Kenyan landscapes, counting vultures.

He and his colleagues then in comparison the outcomes of those surveys with the results of surveys carried out from the 1980s. The comparison revealed a 60% decline in vultures.

Corinne Kendall's do the job has taken this survey a step more.

Ms Kendal is actually a researcher from Princeton College from the US, that has also been working with the Peregrine Fund - tracking and monitoring the birds to investigate the extent of the poisoning.

"We connected the GPS trackers like minor backpacks," she tells BBC News. "There's a piece that sits on their chest and two loops about each and every wing."

"But we had 4 out of sixteen vultures killed from the very first year and three of people have been confirmed cases of poisoning.

"From a sample of sixteen, it is challenging to find out how representative that may be, but it is particularly worrying."

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