For centuries Vultures have been given a bad reputation, partly because of their feeding habits and let’s be honest they don’t have the most aesthetically beautiful features. But in reality they play an extremely vital role in our ecosystem by being natures ‘Clean Up Crew’. Without them our land would become infected with bacteria and our water supplies would be poisoned with waste (with the lack of rain these days we need as much good clean water as we can get).
Known as scavengers, these remarkable creatures dispose of rotting carcasses preventing the spread of deadly diseases. They normally wait for another scavenger, for instance the Black Back Jackal, to rip the carcass open with their sharp teeth before they gather at the carcass to feed. Their beaks are not designed to tear flesh even though the beak of a Cape Vulture is strongly built and looks very sharp.
To date there are a few conservation projects running for vultures which include captive breeding but this is a very long and slow process. On Zululand Rhino Reserve, the Leopard Mountain team helps monitor the vultures by doing regular counts and by tagging selected vultures so that we can monitor their movements. Due to the fact that they are so ‘misunderstood’, we have to attract them with carcasses which then keeps them feeding in protected areas so that they don’t get poisoned.
At Leopard Mountain alone there have been sightings of White Backed Vultures, Cape Vultures, Lappet Faced Vultures and Hooded Vultures.
There are 23 different species of Vulture divided into two groups:
– 7 New World vulture species, they have got an incredible sense of smell to locate the carcasses from kilometres away.
– 16 Old World Vulture species, these vultures have excellent eye sight which helps them spot carcasses from afar.
When it comes to all species of Vulture there is one thing in common – they are all incredibly intelligent creatures. It is really amazing to see Vultures in the wild. Like most things in life, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to these creatures and not just these ugly big birds of prey.
That is why we at Leopard Mountain have made it our mission to take care of Vultures by doing more research, spreading the word and teaching others about their significance. But each and every one of us can make a difference together and fight for the Vulture plight!!!