Bearded Vulture with Satellite Transmittor in Place © Shannon Hoffman

Satellite Tracked Birds

The Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project has placed satellite transmitters on 25 Bearded Vultures and 9 Cape Vultures. These transmitters have been funded and supported by the Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Programme, The Wildlands Conservation Trust and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, with additional single units sponsored by Terra de Natura, Aspen Pharmaceuticals and the McAdams Family.

The satellite transmitter units are light boxes fitted on the birds as a small backpack, and are designed to release and fall off after a period of time. Powered by a small solar panel, they relay their location at hourly intervals, transmitting data via satellite signal. This enables us to accurately track their movements, providing data on feeding and breeding habits, use of territories, and causes of mortality.

The effects of the ongoing threats highlighted by the Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture project have unfortunately been reflected by the results of the satellite monitoring programme.

Of the 25 Bearded Vultures fitted with transmitters over the last 10 years, 1 has died through a power-line collision, 11 have been killed through poisoning, and 1 was shot. That’s almost half of the birds included in the project… In addition, two of the tracked Cape Vuyltures were also found to be poisoned.

We currently have one active satellite transmitter on an adult male Bearded Vulture (Mollie), and one on an adult Cape Vulture (N207). We release update maps showing their weekly movements here.

The tracked Cape Vultures are as follows:

George, adult male- transmitter battery died after 1 year; 57355, adult female- transmitter battery died after 1 year; De la Ray, sub-adult female- poisoned after 2 months; Traveller, sub-adult female- dropped transmitter after 3 years; Shuttle, adult male- dropped transmitter after 3 years; Bennie, juvenile female- transmitter battery died after 6 years; N207, sub-adult male- recaptured after 2 months and rehabilitated and N208, adult male- still transmitting.

It has been very exciting to watch three individuals age from juvenile to adult (6 years), pair up and settle in their own territories to breed. Lehlwa and InkosiYeentaka established a territory in Lesotho, and Mollie and his partner fledged their first chick in 2020 on a sandstone cliff ledge in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. Their breeding activity continues to be monitored.

The tracked Bearded Vultures that have dropped their transmitters after a few years (their fate is unknown) are shown in the photos below.

The tracked birds that have fallen victim to persecution, poisoning or power line collisions are shown in the photos below:

Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project