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Vultures are listed as specially protected animals in Zimbabwe under the sixth schedule of the Parks and Wildlife Act.

INCREASED incidents of poisoning in the country’s expansive national parks could wipe out the vulture population in Zimbabwe.

Vultures are listed as specially protected animals in Zimbabwe under the sixth schedule of the Parks and Wildlife Act.

It is therefore illegal to kill a vulture, even accidently.

But these birds have been dying in large numbers locally after feeding on animals that would have died of poisoning.

There has been widespread poaching of wildlife across the country’s national parks and conservancies, with poachers resorting to the use of cyanide and other veterinary and agricultural chemicals to corner their prey.

A case in point was an incident in the Gonarezhou National Park where over 191 vulture birds were killed after devouring carcases of animals that had died from poisoning.

Two years ago, Hwange National Park was also a scene of the killing of 300 elephants through cyanide, which led to the death of several vultures.

Given that vultures are late maturing birds that lay only two eggs every four years, the impact of poisoning is quite catastrophic.

“A single poisoning incident of the vultures, tens of thousands of vultures can be killed,” said Julia Pierini of Birdlife Zimbabwe.

Elsabe Van der Westhuizen, of the Frankfurt Zoological Society told a recent International Union of Conservation of Nature meeting in Harare that the country risk losing the bird species if poisoning in national parks is left unabated.

There are six species of vultures found in Zimbabwe namely the lappet-faced the hooded, the white-headed palmnut and scavengers.

The most common type is the white-backed.

There is also the myth among traditional healers that the brains of vultures are good for the prediction of events and social ills, which is also contributing to the killing of the birds.

Driven by such beliefs, the brains of vultures are smoked in certain communities in the belief that the bird’s sharp vision would be passed on to the smoker, giving them foresight.

In some incidents vultures are being targeted by poachers who want to get rid of them because they attract the authorities to their kill.

Source : Financial Gazette

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