More than two dozen critically endangered vultures poisoned in Zululand
The carcasses of 16 critically endangered African white-backed vultures were discovered on Wednesday evening in Zululand, northern KwaZulu-Natal - bringing to 27 the total number of vultures found dead in suspected poison-related incidents in the past week.
At least two vultures have survived but are in a critical state. They are being attended to at Raptor Rescue, a rehabilitation centre for African birds of prey near Pietermaritzburg.
On Friday, members of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the Zululand Vulture Project and Wildlife ACT made an initial discovery of 11 poisoned vultures which included the carcasses of seven African white-backed and three lappet-faced vultures and one white-headed vulture.
The vultures were discovered last Friday morning by a local landowner during a regular patrol of his property.
Clinic manager at Raptor Rescue Ben Hoffman told TimesLIVE that the next 48 hours would be crucial for the surviving vultures.
"They're in very bad shape and we have them hooked up to drips. Things are not looking very good at the moment, they were badly poisoned."
Hoffman said if the vultures were to miraculously make it through the next two days, it would be a long and slow road to recovery.
"It would take them at least six months to fully recover."
Hoffman said they strongly believed the vultures were targeted for muthi purposes.
"Someone was out to get them. Vultures heads are commonly used for muthi."
He said a lethal poison commonly used for agricultural purposes had most likely been used.
"The carcasses have been frozen and will be subjected to intensive research, looking at their genetics," he said.
Both African white-backed and white-headed vultures are listed as critically endangered, with populations declining in the past decade in KZN.