20 endangered vultures die of poisoning at Maasai Mara

Twenty critically endangered vultures have died at near the World Famous Maasai Mara National Reserve from poisoning. / REUTERS
Twenty critically endangered vultures have died at near the World Famous Maasai Mara National Reserve from poisoning. / REUTERS

Twenty endangered vultures have died at Maasai Mara National Reserve after poisoning.

Five others that were critically ill were treated with Atropine and later released after a

researcher

at the

Mara Conservancy

Eric Reson discovered the deaths on January 27.

According to him, all vultures had fed on a poisoned spotted hyena at the periphery of the Reserve.

Reson

immediately mobilized personnel from Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, Nature Kenya among others to avert some of the deaths.

The group immediately burnt the hyena and the poisoned vultures to decontaminate the scene.

"The work of multiple partners has ensured that mortalities from poisoning events are at a bare minimum. This work will eventually stamp out wildlife poisoning altogether," Nature Kenya Executive Director Paul Matiku said.

Vulture Conservation Manager for Birdlife International Rebecca Garbett said illegal wildlife poisoning is a huge problem for the future survival of vultures and carnivores across the continent.

"When scavengers and carnivores are lost from an ecosystem, the remaining imbalance can cause unexpected human and livestock health problems,"

she said.

"The good news is that we have a strong network of people at all levels, working together to respond to a poisoning incident, saving birds from dying, and creating awareness about the value of vultures for the Masai Mara and beyond."

Director and Trustee of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust Simon Thomsett said he was impressed by the speed at which people responded to the site.

Thomsett said it is gratifying to see concerned individuals and organizations working together to minimize losses from poisoning.

"Had the team not responded to the poisoning event in time, we would have likely seen more than 100 dead vultures. This event really highlights the value of training individuals, who work on a wide spectrum of things, to effectively respond to a poisoning incident," he said.

The Director of Global Conservation Strategy of The Peregrine Fund Munir Virani said the rapid clean-up is a vital part of preventing more casualties at a poisoning event.

Virani noted that there is a growing awareness and involvement of many stakeholders augments the network of supporters needed to prevent mass poisonings in the first place.

Poisoning has devastated populations of critically endangered vultures and other scavengers.

Retaliatory poisoning usually occurs when livestock are attacked by predators such as lions, hyenas, and leopards.

Without compensation in place, livestock farmers resort to lacing their dead livestock with easily accessible agro-chemicals with the intention to kill predators.

Vultures that scavenge in large numbers on dead animals often succumb to the poison and hundreds can die as a result.

In the past two years, the planned poisoning of two prides of lions was averted, and the overall poisoning of vultures in the Masai Mara has been reduced by more than 50 per cent.

The existence of vultures is crucial to society because they are productive and provide countless environmental services to humanity and biodiversity.

Their survival is not just protected by Kenya’s obligations under international law, but also under Kenya’s Vision 2030 commitments.

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