Poaching and poisoning to win the Lotto and prevent rangers from finding kill sites threaten the Cape Vulture and others.
Several years ago, when we first visited Shannon and Ben Hoffman’s African Bird of Prey Sanctuary outside of Pietermaritzburg in South Africa I wondered what all the fuss was about vultures. After all, for the most part, they’re not the most good looking bird (except for the Bearded Vulture or Lammergeyer).
Then when Shannon told us that their brains are dried and crushed to provide ‘muti’ to make the partaker clairvoyant and able to predict winning lottery numbers, know answers to test questions and attract more business clients, I was dumbfounded.
These winged carrion eaters are believed to have magical powers that can see into the future. The custom stems from old traditional medicine lore in South Africa. Supposedly the vulture brains are dried, ground up and then smoked. A small vial of vulture brains sold for about $6.50 back in 2010.
With the hope for more prosperity, especially in more impoverished communities, it is understandable that vultures are poached. However, this does not make it right. This does put vultures at risk for being caught and killed.
More recently there are reports that rhino and elephant poachers poison the vultures so they cannot lead rangers to the poaching sites. Reportedly at one killing site around 100 dead vultures were found.
Poisoning I’ve been told is a horrible way to die.
So along with the poaching for it’s brain vultures are being poisoned to prevent rangers more readily spotting sites where wildlife has been killed.
Besides these two major threats are power lines and electric windmills. This brief video clip captures a vulture on a large wind turbine. When the second vulture attempts to land it is struck by the huge blade.
Cape Vulture Facts
- This carrion eater is endemic to Southern Africa (only found here)
- A huge wingspan of up to 8.5ft
- Considered the largest raptor in Africa
- Only about 8,000 left in the wilds
- IUCN listing: Vulnerable
- Threats: Poaching, poisoning and power lines/wind turbines
- More Cape Vultures Discovering the ‘Ugly’ Truth
We’re grateful for dedicated wildlife conservationist like Shannon and Ben who rescue, rehabilitate and provide sanctuary for vultures (Bearded Vulture) and many other birds of prey.