Working for birds in Africa

Saving the sentinels of the skies: Kenya's rapid-response vulture unit

Date posted: 
Thursday, September 6, 2018

New rapid-response unit to combat vulture poisoning.

The White-headed Vulture can locate an animal carcass from a mile away © Andre Botha

For millennia, vultures have aided humans in their role as nature’s rapid-response clean-up crew. Now, Kenya is repaying the favour with a new rapid-response unit to combat vulture poisoning: part of an ambitious project to save Africa’s vultures.

A vulture’s eyesight is needle-sharp: it can locate a recently-deceased animal carcass from as much as a mile away. And when we say recent, we mean recent. Vultures typically arrive on the scene within an hour of death, having roved as much as 200km that day in search of a meal. And then they get to work, picking the bones clean before disease has time to spread, far faster than scavengers such as feral dogs or rats can achieve. If you think about it, they are performing a huge humanitarian service. But for how long?

Nowadays, what looks like an inviting meal could turn out to be a deadly poison. Human encroachment upon wild spaces has lead to an increase in human-wildilfe conflict, and people have started lacing animal carcasses with toxic agricultural pesticides such as carbofuran. Read how this new unit will tackle this problem at

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