Working for birds in Africa

Sudan 'killer line' disconnected

Date posted: 
Friday, January 31, 2014

In Ancient Egypt, the Egyptian Vulture was considered a sacred bird. 


Egyptian Vulture

Kevin Vang and Wojciech Dabrowka

We are pleased to report that the notorious power line from Port Sudan to the Red Sea coast, which is estimated to have electrocuted hundreds and perhaps thousands of Endangered Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus since its construction in the 1950s, has been switched off.

This decisive action by the Sudanese government and power company officials follows years of work by BSPB (BirdLife in Bulgaria), and BirdLife’s UNDP/GEF Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project and its local NGO partner, the Sudanese Wildlife Society (SWS).

The decision to decommission and replace the “killer line” followed a MSB-funded presentation to senior government and power company representatives by SWS President Professor Ibrahim Hashim, in March 2013. By September, work had begun on a new, fully-insulated distribution line running parallel to the existing line.

News that the power line had been turned off came during a visit to the Sudanese Transmission Electricity Co. Ltd by a team from the MSB Project, to introduce the MSB project’s guidance on birds and power lines alone the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway.

Source: BirdLife

This was the previous post on August 26th 2013.

“Sudan Government starts insulating the most dangerous power line in Port Sudan”, communicated in person Sudanese Wildlife Society (SWS) President Ibrahim Hashim. He participated in the training workshop in Eastern Rhodopes from 29th July until 3rd August. Sudan Government will insulate a power line in Port Sudan, which is considered one of the most dangerous for the birds. Its length is 30 km.

Back in the distant 1982-1983 the German ornithologist Gerhard Nikolaus (author of Birds of South Sudan) came upon about 55 dead Egyptian Vultures below this power line and during the next visit 21 years later - upon another 5. Cases of about 80 died of electrocution Egyptian vultures were encountered over the years until now. Those cases are for sure rather the tip of the iceberg and, considering the fact that the power line was built back in the 50s, most probably it caused the death of several hundreds, or even more than a thousand Egyptian Vultures. In the past Port Sudan area was the most important place in the country for rest and feeding of the species during the exhausting autumn migration.

Well-known fact is that the Egyptian Vultures often tend to spend the night on electric poles during migration and wintering. The power line, causing the death of so many vultures of the globally endangered species, is located near large attractive for the birds farms, spread over an area of several square kilometers. Moreover, by 2009 it had been the only power line, going far beyond the city limits and thus offering an attractive roosting site for birds. The power line supplies electricity and ensures operation of pumps in the catchment area, which supply water to the nearly 500,000 citizens of the seaport. It is possible that the decades of negative impact of the dangerous power line in the key for the species resting spot are the reason why the Egyptian Vulture population has almost completely vanished. The population traditionally migrates along the western shores of the Red Sea and nests in Eastern Europe and Asia. A joint expedition of BSPB and SWS in 2010 along the dangerous power line route leads to the beginning of the actions on solving the problem with bird mortality caused by the power line in Port Sudan. This expedition confirms the pointed out by Nikolaus evidences of risk, when 17 dead Egyptian Vultures are found below the power line. Not only the Egyptian Vultures are victims of the power line, but also many other species of birds. On one hand the power line is dangerous for the birds by causing electrocution, on the other - because of the chance of collision with the wires. Among the identified by now victims of the power line are not only Egyptian Vultures, but also Lappet-faced Vultures, Steppe Eagles, and during the expedition was registered for the first time for Sudan a Bonelli’s Eagle - dead under the dangerous poles. A risk assessment was done and the results are published in a specialized scientific journal (Angelov et al. 2013, BCI, 23(1): 1-6).

Note: Ivalo Angelov received a conservation award from the African Bird Club in 2010 to investigate the decline of the Egyptian Vultures in Sudan. 

Thanks to it and due to an initiative of SWS, the local authorities are starting securing the line, and we hope this key negative factor for the local as well as wintering in Sudan Egyptian vultures will soon be removed.

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