Home CONSERVATION The vulture ambulance: 911 Emergency Response for poisoned vultures

The vulture ambulance: 911 Emergency Response for poisoned vultures

by Editor

The demand for animal products to feed the illegal wildlife trade has led to thousands of vultures poisoned across Africa, devastating populations and driving them rapidly towards extinction in the wild.

With the relentless surge in wildlife poisoning throughout the Greater Kruger region, the EWT urgently needs funds to build a Vulture Ambulance. A Vulture Ambulance is a vital mobile station to treat and transport poisoned vultures and give them the best chance of survival.

The last ten years have seen a steady increase in wildlife poisoning across the Lowveld of South Africa. The Greater Kruger, surrounding reserves, and the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTCA) form a vulture-rich landscape in which these birds play a critical role. It is also a high-risk area for wildlife poisoning, with approximately 600 vultures from five threatened species killed in the area since January 2019. The most recent event in August 2022 claimed the lives of 108 threatened vultures.

The current rate of decline in population numbers could drive the local extinction of vultures within the next five years. EVERY. BIRD. COUNTS.

The Endangered Wildlife Trust and South African National Parks (SANParks) are working to improve the management and response to these devastating poisoning events by training rangers who respond to poisoning events to save surviving birds and decontaminate the scene to prevent further poisoning of animals or people.

We also work with the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, where surviving birds can be treated locally and rehabilitated until they are fit to return to the skies. Over 2020-2022 alone, the EWT and Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre rescued 75 threatened vultures that survived poisoning incidents in the Kruger, of which 67 have been successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild to have a second chance to thrive and breed.

We have the skills, but we need the tools.

African White-backed Vulture

Why we need a Vulture Ambulance

Saving poisoned vultures is not easy. Responders must administer first aid immediately to stabilise surviving birds, provide antidotes to common poisons, and flush birds’ crops to remove poisons and replace fluids. The birds then need a cool, quiet place to rest during the trip to the rehabilitation centre, which can be well over eight hours’ travel from the poisoning sites. In some cases, we have to overnight in the field, where the trailer becomes even more vital.

A mobile Vulture Ambulance stationed strategically within high-risk areas can transport multiple birds in modular, easy-to-remove crates that can be accessed without disturbing other resting birds. The trailer, costing R118,500, will include a mobile clinic, first aid station, a heating system, and a cooling system. It will provide everything we need to rapidly and successfully rescue, treat, and transport poisoned vultures, significantly increasing the number of birds that survive these catastrophic events.

Please help us by donating to save vultures today. Visit https://www.ewt.org.za/donate-to-save-vultures/

The initial design for the Vulture Ambulance.

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