Botswana Vultures poisoned — A total of 537 vultures and two golden eagles have died in Botswana after eating the poisoned remains of three elephants killed by poachers, a fact condemned by conservation organizations.
In a statement, the government of this southern African country reported that the Department of Wildlife and National Parks discovered the carcasses of the birds “recently” in an area of the Central District (northeast).
The Botswana authorities said the poisoning was caused by a “poisonous chemical” found in the corpses of three elephants, which caused “an important mortality in vultures and eagles.”
Among the birds killed by poisoning are 10 Cape vultures, a species found only in South Africa, Lesotho and certain areas of Botswana; and 468 white-backed vultures, an animal included in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The security forces deployed in the area “are working day and night to decontaminate the area,” and “samples of the bodies and the environment have been taken for further laboratory analysis,” the government said.
Although the specific motive of the poisoning is unknown, poachers usually contaminate the remains of slain elephants in order to kill the vultures, who usually fly in a circle in the sky when an animal dies and, in this way, alert the rangers about that illegal activity.
The director of Crimes Against Wildlife of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW, in its acronym in English), Pauline Verheij, described today on his Twitter account the finding of dead vultures of “catastrophic news”.
The organization Wild Life at International Risk (WAR, in its acronym in English) stressed today that the species of poisoned vultures in Botswana are “seriously endangered”, and recalled that these birds perform one of the “most important work in ecosystems Africans “.
The vultures, warned WAR, “clean the dead animals, which reduces the spread of disease, and keeps the number of scavengers at lower levels.”
Botswana was also in the news for a conservationist issue last month, when it announced the controversial decision to lift the ban on hunting those animals in its territory after four years of veto.
Among the reasons for this decision stands out the increase in conflicts between humans and elephants -including pachyderms in villages and agricultural lands that sometimes cause serious damage to the livelihoods of families- or the increase in predators attracted by these animals and their impact on livestock.
With more than 135 thousand specimens, Botswana has the highest density of elephant population in the world.
Earlier this year Israeli police have arrested a first suspect in the poisoning investigation that has seriously damaged the fragile vulture population in the part of the Golan annexed by Israel, she said Monday.
Eight vultures, a large part of the population of these birds estimated at less than twenty individuals in this region, were found dead poisoned last week, said Friday the Israeli Authority of Parks and Nature.
Police said Sunday they arrested a resident of the Bedouin village of Tuba Zangariye in northern Israel as part of his investigation. A court of Tiberias to which he was presented on Monday extended his custody of 48 hours, she added in a statement.
The police did not mention the possible motives of the suspect, simply stating that “the investigation is continuing”.
The fate suffered by the vultures is “a deadly blow to this population of raptors,” told AFP the director of the Authority of Nature, Shaoul Goldstein.
In 20 years, the vulture population in this region has declined significantly. Estimated at nearly 130 in 1998, they were less than 20 recently, before the announcement of these deaths, according to the Authority.
Israel has annexed in 1981 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan taken to Syria, an annexation that has never been recognized by the international community.