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The survival and conservation of vultures will be in the spotlight on Saturday, 4 September, which is International Vulture Awareness Day.

There are six vulture species in South Africa whose numbers are declining and many face extinction, causing great concern among conservationists and wildlife experts.

The main reasons for the decline in vulture populations is a combination of persecution, electrocution, poisoning and the illegal trade of body parts for traditional medicine. These birds provide critically important ecosystem services by cleaning up carcasses and reducing the risk of the spread of diseases, resulting in economic and human health benefits.

For many years, the South African Hunters and Game Conservation Association (SA Hunters) raised awareness about the decline in vulture numbers and initiated vulture conservation projects among its 44000 plus members countrywide.

SA Hunters’ Gen. De la Ray branch in Lichtenburg, Northwest has been managing an active vulture restaurant for several years. The Lichtenburg site is visited by up to 200 vultures simultaneously during feeding times. Other than providing a safe feeding site for vultures, sites such as these, also serve as conservation education centres for youth groups and local communities. The Mopani Branch in the Lowveld also started processes for managing a vulture restaurant and for recording and managing safe breeding sites.

The Association recently established a vulture heritage site initiative that requires the registration of landowners to support vulture conservation by protecting breeding sites; secure safe feeding and drinking sites; and monitor birds that visit their farms. In return, SA Hunters will provide landowners with a certificate of recognition for participation in vulture conservation and information and will also provide support on vulture related matters in collaboration with conservation partners. This includes support with, e.g., monitoring and rescuing injured birds.


Interested landowners may register their land as vulture heritage sites with SA Hunters at no cost when they undertake to support vulture conservation by:

·                     protecting breeding sites on their land;

·                     securing safe feeding and drinking sites for vultures on their properties;

·                     assisting with annual monitoring of the birds on their land; and

·                     ensuring that hunting and wildlife management activities on their land do not pose a risk to vultures.

Additionally, SA Hunters, together with other conservation bodies, participates in the National Vulture Task Force, which was established by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. The overall aim of the Vulture Task Force is to guide vulture conservation in southern Africa.

The Association also plays an active role in the National Wildlife Poison Prevention Working Group and the National Lead Task Team that address concerns and seek practical solutions to the negative impact of unintended lead poisoning of vultures resulting, for example, from the use of lead-based ammunition to the use of lead sinkers in fishing.

There is evidence that lead fragments from lead-based ammunition used in wildlife management, hunting and farming practices can harm wildlife. When carcasses of animals shot with lead-based ammunition are donated to vulture restaurants or left in the veld to support scavengers, it poses a risk to vultures and other scavengers.

SA Hunters, together with the rest of the task team, is developing a series of informative documents to raise awareness among users of lead-based ammunition to reduce risks to wildlife, including vultures. The Association is taking the lead in a process to improve the availability of affordable leadfree ammunition for most commonly used rifle calibres and shotguns in South Africa.

Lizanne Nel, conservation manager at SA Hunters says the declining numbers of vultures should be a concern for each and every citizen. “Since its inception in 1949, the SA Hunters and Game Conservation Association has been committed to conservation. One cannot live off the land and spend long hours in the veld and not develop an understanding and deep connection with nature. The association will continue in its commitment to vulture conservation and invite the public and other role players in the wildlife sector, locally and in neighbouring countries, to join SA Hunters’ concerted efforts in conserving these magnificent birds.”

“To improve our knowledge of the distribution, breeding, biology, poisoning, and electrocution incidents of vultures, SA Hunters included a section for the recording of vulture sightings in a smartphone App that is developed in-house. This will enable members to capture sightings of rare and threatened species and the data will be used to support important vulture conservation efforts,” Lizanne concluded.

For more information about the Vulture Heritage Programme and opportunities to get involved, contact the conservation manager of SA Hunters, Lizanne Nel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The public can also donate to the conservation trust:

Account Name:  Tinyarhi Trust

PBO Number: 930072003

Bank:  ABSA

Account number:  4093220340

Reference: Vulture