Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Vultures foraging far and wide face a poisonous future

Date:
January 30, 2013
Source:
Durham University
Summary:
African vultures face an increasing risk of fatal poisoning, according to new research.

A first ever study of the range and habits of white-backed vultures across southern Africa shows that they often shun national parks, preferring to forage further afield on private farmland.

This behaviour and their tendency to scavenge in groups, means that vultures risk encountering dead cattle that have been administered veterinary drugs that are poisonous to them, or even poisoned carcasses intended to control other carnivores such as jackals.

The research, using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite transmitters to track the movements of adolescent vultures, is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The white-backed vulture is a widespread but declining species in Africa and it is now listed as endangered. In India, several vulture species are on the verge of extinction due to accidental poisoning from cattle carcasses that contain anti-inflammatory drugs administered by farmers. These drugs are non-lethal to cattle yet fatal to vultures. There is a concern that these drugs could become more widely used in Africa.

Vultures prefer to feed in savannah grassland habitats and away from other competing carnivores, such as lions, and the new study shows that the birds will go to considerable lengths to find food, crossing multiple state boundaries, with each bird on average ranging across an area twice the size of England.

Co-lead author, Dr Stephen Willis, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, said: "We found that young vultures travel much further than we ever imagined to find food, sometimes moving more than 220 kilometres a day. Individuals moved through up to five countries over a period of 200 days, emphasising the need for conservation collaboration among countries to protect this species."

"In South Africa, the vultures avoided the national parks that have been established to conserve wildlife. As a result, these parks are unlikely to protect such a wide-ranging species against threats in the wider landscape.

"The vultures may actively avoid parks with numerous large mammal predators due to competition for food, and find easier pickings on cattle carcasses in farmland outside these protected areas.

"We found evidence that individual birds were attracted to 'vulture restaurants' where carrion is regularly put out as an extra source of food for vultures and where tourists can see the birds up close. As a result, these individuals reduced their ranging behaviour. Such 'restaurants' could be used in future to attract vultures to areas away from sites where they are at high risk of poisoning."

The team tracked six immature African white-backed vultures (Gyps africanus): five for 200 days, and one for 101 days) across southern Africa using GPS tracking units which were carefully strapped to the birds' backs.

Co-lead author, Louis Phipps, who recently graduated from the University of Pretoria, said: "Modern farming practices mean that vultures face an increasing risk of fatal poisoning. The provision of an uncontaminated supply of food, research into veterinary practices, and education for farmers could all be part of a future solution, if vulture numbers continue to plummet."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Durham University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Durham University. "Vultures foraging far and wide face a poisonous future." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184314.htm>.
Durham University. (2013, January 30). Vultures foraging far and wide face a poisonous future. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 14, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184314.htm
Durham University. "Vultures foraging far and wide face a poisonous future." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130130184314.htm (accessed September 14, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins