Over 500 Critically Endangered Vultures Die From Eating Elephants Poisoned By Poachers

468 white-backed vultures died in Botswana after eating elephant carcasses that were believed to have been poisoned by poachers. Other vulture species were affected as well, bringing the total of dead vultures to 537.  ( IUCN Red List )

In Botswana, over 500 vultures considered critically endangered were found dead in one of the country’s protected wildlife management areas (WMA). The creatures evidently died after consuming the carcasses of three elephants believed to be poisoned by poachers.

Mass Animal Death

Over 500 vultures and two tawny eagles are dead after consuming three dead elephants believed to have been poisoned by poachers. In a statement, the government said that incident happened in a protected WMA and denounced the poisoning that led to these deaths, calling it “dangerous and harmful to the environment.”

In total, 537 vultures died, including 468 white-backed vultures, 10 cape vultures, 14 lappet-faced vultures, 17 white-headed vultures, and 28 hooded vultures. Unfortunately, all of the mentioned species are considered critically endangered in the International Union For Conservation of Nature Red List.

Vultures Vs Poachers

This is not the first time that vultures died because of poachers. In 2003, over 500 birds, including vultures, also died in Namibia after eating the carcasses of elephants that were poisoned.
Evidently, creatures such as vultures are rather problematic for poachers because they tend to give away the locations of poachers’ activities when they flock to the site of the carcass. Unfortunately, this leaves the creatures quite vulnerable to poisoning.

Because of the incident, authorities are now working to decontaminate the area from the poison to avoid further deaths. They are also encouraging members of the public to report any suspicious activity that may be suggestive of environmental poisoning.

White-Backed Vultures

Of the vulture deaths, white-backed vultures suffered the most casualties. Also called Old World vultures, these creatures are the most common large vultures in Africa. White-backed vultures feed on the carcasses of large dead animals, and they tend to gorge themselves so much on food that they can no longer fly. When this happens, they rest with their wings spread and backs facing the sun.

Some of the main threats to white-backed vultures are loss of habitat due to agriculture, illegal capture for trade, hunting for traditional medicines, drowning in farm reservoirs, electrocution from electricity pylons, and poisoning.

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