Lappet-faced Vulture

Scientific Name: Torgos tracheliotos

In 2000 Lappet-faced Vultures were listed as Vulnerable in the Red Data Book. In 2015 their status was uplifted to Endangered. The expected population size reduction is estimated to be in the region of 50% in the next 45-50 years. These statistics are staggering considering there is a regional population of about 2 500 mature birds left.

The increasing incidents of large-scale poisoning, most notably motivated by poaching incidents and harvesting for the traditional health industry, have been identified as the biggest threats to this species.

The Lappet-faced Vulture is the largest vulture species occurring in South Africa, and is easily identified by its massive beak and large bare head with pink and blue skin. The prominent skin folds and lappets on the face and neck are where the species gets its name from. Both males and females look alike.


The species inhabits the woodland regions of South Africa, preferring drier areas. Pairs are monogamous and only reach breeding maturing at 6 years old. They build gigantic nests out of sticks, positioned in the crowns of trees, and lined with grass. They will often re-use these nests. Usually, only one egg is laid, and breeding success has been reported to be only 44%.

These birds do not arrive in large numbers at a carcass, like the Gyps species do, and are often found at smaller carcasses, and may in fact, rely on these for a regular food supply as opposed to the larger carcasses that attract the Gyps species. However, they often dominate other vulture species at a carcass, and because of their huge, strong beaks, are better equipped to deal with the tough skin, tendons and ligaments than the other species are.


Maloti-Drakensberg Vulture Project