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The Vanishing Vulture – Saving one of Nature’s Best Scavengers

February 03, 2017

In the wake of catastrophic declines of vulture populations across Africa, The Peregrine Fund partnered with Lewa, Northern Rangelands Trust, and Marwell Wildlife to monitor and protect critical breeding sites in northern Kenya.

What vultures lack in looks they make up for in services. The epitome of a good scavenger, a vulture’s ability to pick clean a decaying carcass is critical to controlling the spread of disease to humans, livestock and other wildlife. But their greatest strength is now their biggest threat. Poisoning is becoming a widespread practice among livestock owners wanting to eradicate predators, and this is taking a huge toll on vulture populations. 

In January 2017, Munir Virani of The Peregrine Fund, who have been monitoring vultures in northern Kenya since 2012, conducted a helicopter survey of Mt. Ololokwe with support from Lewa. This iconic and sacred mountain sits inside Namunyak Community Conservancy. It is popular with hikers and campers, but it is also, according to Munir, home to “the largest and most important breeding colony of critically endangered Rüppell’s vultures, and many other species of rare and endangered raptors, in Kenya.”

Mt Ololokwe is the largest and most important breeding colony of critically endangered Rüppell’s vultures in Kenya

The flight aimed to provide The Peregrine Fund with an idea of just how many vultures were nesting on Ololokwe’s sheer cliff faces. With this information, they hope to establish a baseline by which future conservation actions will be measured.

“Kenya is a signatory to the Convention of Biological Diversity and is obligated to safeguard vultures” says Munir. “With support from the community and partners, we have sowed the first seeds towards ensuring that this and other neighbouring breeding colonies of critically endangered vultures are protected.”

Lewa, NRT, Marwell Wildlife and The Peregrine Fund are working together towards developing field and community-based programmes to reduce wildlife poisoning, understand habitat requirements of bird communities over the larger landscape of NRT conservancies and to assist with capacity building to develop tomorrow’s conservation leaders.