Poisoning continues to be a dire threat to the vulture population populations, and a call has been made for research and conservation initiatives to be supported and prioritised in order to address the problem.
Speaking during the International Vulture Awareness Day that was held in Kachikau over the weekend, Chobe District Council Chairman Chimney Mululwani believes that investing in understanding vulture behaviour, migration patterns, and breeding habits could enable implementation of informed decisions and develop effective conservation strategies.
He said that sustainable alternatives to the practices that threaten vultures and promoting organic farming, safe disposal of carcasses and responsible waste management can all contribute to a healthier environment for vultures to thrive.
“As we unite against vulture poisoning, we must also address the underlying issues that perpetuate this crisis. Poverty, lack of education, and the illegal wildlife trade are all interconnected factors that need our attention and action. By empowering local communities and raising awareness about the importance of vultures, we can create lasting change that extends beyond their survival,” he said.
Mululwani said there is a need to educate communities, farmers, and policymakers about the devastating consequences of using toxic chemicals that harm not only on vultures but also to the broader environment and human health.
“We must foster collaborative efforts between governments, non-governmental organisations, and local communities. By working together, we can create and enforce regulations that restrict the use of poisonous chemicals, thereby safeguarding vulture habitats and food sources,” he said.
As a way of raising awareness about vulture poisoning the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has also between March and June this year hosted a vulture education initiative in the Chobe District. The initiative was meant to educate members of the community about the importance of vultures and to raise awareness about the effects of using toxic chemicals that harm vultures.
In an interview, Chobe Acting Regional Wildlife Officer Ernest Madimabe indicated that from the past years Chobe region has been experiencing high numbers of vultures’ deaths, which were mostly caused by farmers trying to safeguard their livestock against predators by killing them. He stated that these farmers usually put toxic substances on their livestock carcasses, the main intention being to target predators that attack their livestock, unfortunately vultures become collateral damage.
Madimabe highlighted that around 2010 a total of 70 vultures were found dead in Lesoma after a farmer poisoned his livestock that was attacked by lions. He further revealed that from August 2022 up to January this year 106 vultures were found dead in Chobe West Enclave villages (Mabele, Kachikau, Kavimba, Parakarungu and Satau).
The officer said unfortunately it is very difficult for them to apprehend the perpetrators in Chobe West Enclave where those incidents are mostly happening because the residents don’t report each other.
Madimabe added that poachers are also a threat to the decreasing population of vultures because they also put toxic substances on wild animals’ carcasses, trying to avoid the DWNP operation teams from detecting their deeds.
He stressed that they use vultures as indicators to where they can find wild animal carcasses therefore poachers end up poisoning those vultures, in order to restrict wild life officers to recognise those carcasses.
The officer noted that vultures play a very important role in the ecosystem therefore it is very important to teach the public about their significance in order to curb the decline.