VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Breeding cliff of critically endangered Rüppell’s Vultures in Kenya is threatened by development
Two days ago eight members of the famous Marsh Pride of lions were poisoned inside the Masai Mara National Reserve. Also poisoned were at least six White-backed and Rüppell’s vultures, though this will never make the headlines.
After millions of years of being beneficial to humans and our ancestors, these mighty scavengers are now falling prey to human vices.
I love to hike and I even enjoy the occasional bush-whack. So it was with some excitement that my student Paul Muriithi asked me to accompany him for five days on Mt Kenya to search for the Abyssinian owl (aka the African long-eared owl). Though a pair can be observed in Bale Mountains, Ethiopia, the last confirmed Kenyan record of this species was in 1961. But how do you begin searching for an owl whose life history reads like an exposé of an FBI undercover operation: ‘few data’, ‘little information’, ‘nothing known’. That is where Paul first started in 2012, accompanied only by his tenacity and the occasional rampaging buffalo. Three years on, after losing three pairs of binoculars to buffaloes and bush-whacks, the search for this elusive owl has nearly been concluded.
Traveling 125 miles by your own power might take a human a week a more to complete. For Ruppell’s vultures, with an 8-ft wingspan, it’s a mere day trip.
Elephant and rhino poachers are increasingly turning to poisons with devastating consequences. If the tide is not stemmed soon, many species will be utterly destroyed by the demand for their parts in East Asia.
Can Africa’s ecosystems survive the toxic effects of wildlife poisoning?
This year has seen a dramatic increase in vulture poisonings particularly in southern Africa. At current levels many species of African vulture will become extinct within our lifetimes.
The recent mass poisoning of vultures has prompted the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to propose urgent legislation that would ban over-the-counter sales of poisons and pesticides. (Read more: Elephant Poachers Poison Hundreds of Vultures to Evade Authorities) Further investigations have revealed that over 1,000 vultures may have perished in this single incident. While this…
Poachers lace the discarded elephant carcass with cheap poisons to kill vultures in mass. Why? Because vultures circling in the sky alert wildlife authorities to the location of poachers’ activities.
My 1985 Toyota Landcruiser can’t swim. So when the mud-coloured lake that was once a road started pouring through my doors I knew it was time to get the heck outta there.
There are two things I need while trapping vultures, good company and chocolate. Fortunately, I managed the first one, but unfortunately for my trapping partner I overlooked the second. The media’s portrayal of the work of wildlife biologists is unapologetically deceptive. The exciting moments of the capture and handling of a live, often furry, creature…