Author Archives: Jeffrey Newmark

Cape Vulture Breeding

Published / by Jeffrey Newmark / Leave a Comment

The Vulture Programme in collaboration with the Johannesburg Zoo is proud to announce the hatching of their first captive bred Cape Vulture chick which hatched on 1 September 2011, this chick is unique in that the method used to successfully breed this chick is the first for the species in South Africa, as well as the first chick destined for Namibia as part of our Namibian Cape Vulture Recovery Plan.

The egg was laid on 11 July 2011 on an artificial breeding cliff inside an enclosure at the Vulture Programme’s Vulture Centre near Hartbeespoort Dam. The egg was then transferred to an incubator where it was artificially incubated for 54 days.  During this time, the parents were given a dummy egg to continue incubating. On 30 August the chick was heard inside the egg’s air-space and the next day the chick was assisted throughout its hatching process in order to safe guard and guarantee its survival during this stressful period.

At 15:00 on 1 September, the chick was taken to its natural parents and swapped with the dummy egg using a specially made plastic egg shell from which the parents could easily ‘hatch’ the chick.  The parents immediately heard the chick inside the artificial egg shell and assisted it to hatch again after which they carefully and proudly inspected their offspring and started brooding.  Our breeding and swapping attempt proved to be successful and fourteen days later, the chick has doubled in size and the parents are quite comfortable allowing us to watch their feeding regime.

This technique allows us to produce parent reared ‘wild’ chicks that are suitable for release into their natural environment, as opposed to hand raised chicks which can be human imprinted, while eliminating many of the dangers of natural incubation and hatching. Cape Vultures are colonial birds, but will mate for life, carefully choosing their ‘soul-mate’ from a large group. In captivity, they may not meet a suitable mate, thus for successful breeding, several birds need to be housed together to allow them to make their own partner selection.

The Namibian Recovery Plan is focused on preventing the extinction of the species in Namibia where they are now extinct as a breeding species.  The intention of the plan is to undertake ex-situ breeding of Cape Vultures with the goal to reintroduce these vultures back into existing home ranges in Namibia with the purpose of stabilising the remaining wild population. The ultimate goal being to increase the individual number of Cape Vultures to the point of natural breeding once again on Namibia’s Waterberg Plateau.

Background

The Cape Vulture is southern Africa’s only endemic vulture species and is listed as critically endangered in Namibia with approximately 12 wild Cape Vultures left in the country.

South Africa has the largest population of breeding Cape Vultures, however still listed as vulnerable by the IUCN (2000) with an estimated 2400 breeding pairs in the wild (Vulture Programme unpublished data 2011).  In view of the few remaining Cape Vultures left in Namibia, unless the mitigation of identified threats is undertaken, in addition to a captive breeding and reintroduction programme, the species will be lost to Namibia and only a few vagrant Cape Vultures from South Africa will be seen visiting some of the natural and historical foraging sites.

Vulture species across the globe are facing similar threats with the Cape Vulture being no exception, resulting in a continuous downward spiral throughout much of their range. Human activities have had the largest impact on vultures throughout the world.

Power line electrocutions and collisions together with inadvertent poisoning remain two of the greatest threats that vultures as well as other birds of prey are facing in southern Africa.  Disturbance at nesting and roosting sites contributes to a loss of suitable nesting/roosting habitat for vultures.  Human population expansion continues to claim large areas of wilderness, which will eventually be lost to vulture populations.  Development in wilderness areas for eco-resorts is a cause of great concern as these areas are often branded as ‘eco-friendly’ however, impacts are often as serious as many agricultural developments.  Climate change could possibly have an impact on the birds breeding behaviour, a threat that requires further focused research to understand its potential impact on the species. In Namibia, mismanagement of some farmlands has led to severe bush encroachment over large areas, and recent research has indicated that this also has an adverse effect on the vulture’s ability to find food.

One of our Sponsors gets stuck in !

Published / by Jeffrey Newmark / Leave a Comment

Our conservation projects depend almost entirely on the goodwill of the public and sponsorship from companies willing to lend a hand and donate money to assist us with the conservation of the vultures in South Africa. Skywings Paragliding aviation company based in Hout Bay, specializes in tandem paragliding Cape Town. Owner run by Kai Duran who has 25 years’ experience in the well-known sport of paragliding. You can experience the beauty the Atlantic coastline, Camps Bay, Table Mountain, Green Point and the Waterfront has to offer from a great height with a magnificent view. The launches usually take place from either Lions Head or Signal Hill. Both extremely famous mountains in South Africa. You get to explore the mountainous terrain, the oceans below as well as the many renowned places Cape Town has to offer. This extraordinary experience can be experienced for R 1150.00. You can go onto the Skywings website www.skywingsparagliding.co.za for additional information. Ever wonder what it would feel like to soar high above the land you’ve come to know and love, soaring through an open ended world of clear blue sky, experiencing the land below from the perspective of the cape vulture ? The sun basking at your back, the wind gushing at your feet, and through your wings, elevating you through the air. Listening to the pure bliss of birds searing through the vast blue sky. For moments, just moments, you feel as though you’re one with them. Looking down at the vast world below. The outstretched oceans, the green grass spreading for miles on end. For just moments you feel as though you’ve left the world, but you’re still in it, just in a completely different realm. Looking at it from this new and unfamiliar angle, anything seems possible.
From the moment your feet left the ground and all that was known to it, and launched you into the unknown. You feel an overwhelming feeling of achieving your wildest dreams. In that few moments that passes by, you get to be like a free-flying winged creature. Looking down on creation instead of walking on it, you’re flying high above its’ magical beauty. The world at your feet. Your gigantic wings, strong and sturdy guiding you through the sky on little gusts of wind. Soaring past mountains and hills so huge, they come alive right in front of your eyes. What a wonderful way to experience all the enchanted beauty around you. Such and exhilarating way to experience life. To give you a new perspective, motivation or even just appreciation.
It sounds like a dream, a dream that could very well come true. A dream that is a lot closer than you think. It goes by the name tandem paragliding. It’s a competitive, recreational sport which has been around for years. We are lucky to have the owner of Skywings paragliding involved with our vulture conservation projects. Many brave individuals, and not so brave have ventured out and tried the sport. One thing they all have in common, no regrets. You don’t need any special equipment or prior training. Everything you need is supplied to you. You don’t need to be the fittest person on earth either. Big strong muscles, or not, paragliding is for everyone. All you need is an adventurous spirit, a big brave heart, and a zest for life. It’s not that hard to achieve, simply head over to the Skywings website, www.skywingsparagliding.co.za and book your flight!
If you’re looking to do things a little differently this year around. Looking for a little inspiration to get you through the rest of the year. Paragliding would be a great way to start off the New Year. If you are wanting to try something new. Be a little braver than last year, why not give paragliding a try. If you have overseas relatives, or guests coming over and you’re trying to figure out the best way for them to experience all the beauty Cape Town has to offer. Why not do it with a little bit of valour. One of the best and most unique ways to explore the splendid City of Cape Town would be by paragliding.

Looking to the Future

Published / by Jeffrey Newmark / Leave a Comment

Artificially incubated, parent reared in captivity by non releasable adults in our breeding enclosure, destined for release into Namibia, this chick is now ten days old, only seven years to go till its old enough to start making its own contribution to this species survival.

This chick is looking for a sponsor to finance the Tracking Device that will help to keep it safe after its release, and for transport, pre-release housing in the form a hacking enclosure that needs to be built in Namibia and more. Cape Vultures are extinct as a breeding species in Namibia.

Kerri Wolters, somewhat of a “vulture whisperer” is a determined presence in the conservation world. Her ability to connect with and handle these birds as well as, to conduct wild captures, puts Kerri among the very few who recognize and advocate the vital role vultures play within society. Kerri takes us on a Path into the Future exploring not only threats on vulture survival, such as the muti trade and urbanization but the wealth of knowledge and freedom that these birds can pass on to the human race.

Taking a unique opportunity to paraglide, Kerri goes beyond the confines of the vulture enclosure and gains a perspective of life through the eyes and wings of the birds. Gliding with these misunderstood creatures Kerri’s eyes are further opened to the amount of beauty and wonder the modern world misses out on, she invites us as individuals to experience nature and thus gain an understanding of why this planet so deserves our protection.

Today only 2900 breeding pairs of the Cape Vulture remain worldwide. Path into the Future is produced by African Renaissance Productions as part of the Caretakers Series for STEPS and SANBI