Building multi-sectorial capacity to tackle illegal wildlife poisoning: poaching and conflict in the KAZA transfrontier conservation area

As a contribution to a broader approach of tackling threats currently facing vultures and consequently halt the declines vulture species in Botswana and Africa in general, BirdLife Botswana collaborated with three other BirdLife partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & BirdLife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations. This work is done through a 24 months (starting January 2021) project titled “Building multi-sectorial capacity to tackle illegal wildlife poisoning: poaching and conflict in the world’s largest transfrontier conservation area”. The project is funded by EU through the BIOPAMA program. On the Botswana side the project will be implemented in Chobe with experiences scaled out to the rest of the country. The main goal of this project is “to reduce poison related vulture deaths (and consequently other wildlife species deaths) within the KAZA region but for now at selected pilot sites being Chobe district in Botswana, Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.

It has now been evident that wildlife poisoning poses one of the biggest challenge in our quest to conserve our diverse wildlife. Some of the common reasons for poisoning wildlife are for control of problem animals (e.g., retaliatory killings of predators), poaching and killing wildlife sentinels by poachers (e.g., vultures because their aerial circling alerts authorities to poachers ‘activities). This illegal poisoning of wildlife has resulted in decimation of wildlife populations worldwide. Scavengers, particularly vultures are the most affected group by poisoning.

Vultures are uniquely adapted to exploit food sources such as carcasses and other natural waste, acting as nature’s garbage collectors. In keeping habitats free of carcasses and waste, vultures restrict the spread of diseases, such as anthrax, botulism and tuberculosis, at no financial cost. Despite their extremely important ecologically role and high economical value, vultures are amongst the most threatened animals on the planet and face a real threat of extinction.

Africa and Botswana vultures are exposed to a number of different threats, including poisoning incidents (both deliberate and accidental), illegal trade in vulture body parts for traditional medicine, and collisions with man-made structures such as power lines and wind turbines. Wildlife poisoning currently the major threat to vulture survival in Botswana with a continuing spate of poisoning incidents (resulting from both predator baiting and targeted vulture poisoning by poachers), resulting in heavy vulture mortality, with serious and far-reaching impacts on Botswana’s vulture populations. One of the most recent poisoning incidents took place in June 2019, killing at least 537 endangered vultures (of 5 different species) around Chobe region. The incident, happened where vulture fed on at least three poisoned elephant carcasses. If you are interested in knowing more or contributing to this program contact: education@birdlifebotswana.org.bw or call our office line.

 

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