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Giants of the sky

Casting a big shadow and hiding the sun from your eyes as they fly over, make these birds one of the giants of the sky. Vultures are seen as ugly, nasty and stinky birds, unlike their smaller cousins, but even though they lack good looks, they are still amazing creatures in my book

The White Backed Vulture

I was lucky enough to capture these two, enjoying the view in Welgevonden one day. The White Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) are actually considered a medium sized vulture, compared to bigger species found in South Africa. They can weigh up to 7.2 kg and have a wingspan of about 2 meters. As I am sure you all know, they mainly scavenge and feed off carcasses left behind by predators making them a very important member of the greater eco system.

A Critically Endangered Species

These amazing birds are common residents, and seen on occasion flying around the Waterberg area. They are however in trouble, and as from October 2015, they have been declared Critically Endangered. There are many reasons why their population is declining rapidly. Loss of habitat is one big reason. Humans cutting down trees to build towns and cities, and even elephants breaking and destroying big trees are affecting nesting sites. Our power lines going up everywhere electrocute hundreds of vultures each year. In Kenya, people also poison carcasses to kill predators to keep them away from livestock – which then affect the Vultures as well.

Thankfully, conservation teams are hard at work in a number of protected areas in Africa, including the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. They are also establishing legal protection for the species and a vulture monitoring network is up and running in many of South Africa’s private game reserves to determine their biggest threats and find solutions. Hopefully these giants of the sky will be of the endangered species list in the coming years.


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