1440 Vultures fell prey to poisoning in southern Africa in 2013, and it is believed that agricultural poisonings accounted for the vast majority of that number. Carcasses illegally laced with chemicals such as carbofuran are left in accessible places, most often targeting ‘problem’ scavengers such as jackal. This was the direct cause of hundreds of vulture deaths in the past year, and will continue to account for further population declines if a focused and specific education programme is not implemented in order to mitigate these threats, and if suitable predator control methods aren’t implemented.
It is a criminal offence under the Conservation Legislation of all South African Provinces as well as the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (Act no. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA) to poison scavengers or predators or to use a herbicide or pesticide for purposes other than for which it is registered. No agricultural chemical in South Africa is registered or available for the poisoning of scavengers or predators.
Check out the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Farmers’ Guide to Vultures
Carcasses containing any of the following products should NEVER be left where they are available to vultures:
• Barbiturates (used for euthanasing animals e.g. Phenobarbitone, Pentobarbital etc.).
• Sodium Monofloroacetate – a natural toxin contained in some plants, e.g. Gifblaar Dichapetalum cymosum that may be ingested by livestock or game causing death.
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] (used to treat a variety of ailments but lethal to vultures; Sodium Diclofenac (active ingredient of Voltaren®) caused a 99.5% crash in the vulture populations in Asia; there is only one registered NSAID in South Africa that is safe for vultures – Meloxicam (also known as Metacam). This drug was previously unavailable for large animals but is now in production and available).
• Antibiotics (especially Tetracycline or Penicillin).
• Dips (any animal recently dipped in an organophosphate dip should not be accessible to vultures; the skin should be removed from livestock recently dipped against ticks using externally applied sprays or pour-on treatments).
• Other agricultural products that that are deadly to vultures and should not be used in vulture areas include Strychnine, Aldicarb, Monocrotophos, Methamidophos, Diazinon and Ethylfenthion.