Scientific name: Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis
English: Bearded Vulture
In former times, the distribution of this magnificent raptor extended from the Cape of Good Hope, along the eastern mountain spine of Africa into northwest Africa, then through to the Middle East, and into Europe and central Asia. Now the only population left in the Southern Hemisphere resides in our isolated and rugged Maluti-Drakensberg highlands. This endangered African sub-species has suffered more than 30% decline in recent history and there are thought to be less than 100 pairs left.
The Bearded Vulture is classified as Endangered in Southern Africa, based on the small and declining population size, restricted range, range contraction and susceptibility to several threats in Lesotho and South Africa.
Their populations are threatened by the fact that there is less food available to them because of better rural farming practices and thus less stock mortalities. Their feathers, skins and body parts are used for ceremonial and traditional medicine purposes. They also fall foul to traps and poisoned baits set out by farmers trying to eradicate stock killers like jackal and feral dogs, and are also vulnerable to electrocution on power lines.
The Bearded Vulture used to be known as the Lammergeier, which in German means “lamb vulture” and referred to what people thought were their lamb-catching tendencies. This inappropriate name has done these large scavenging birds a great disservice.
This project was established with the initial aim of monitoring nest sites to determine population trends. The project has now expanded to include the implementation of various actions aimed at mitigating the threats to the species. The project has a group of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who monitor the Bearded Vulture throughout its range in Lesotho and South Africa.
Regional Ecologist West uKhahlamba
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, P.O. Box 13053, Cascades, 3202
Tel: +27 (0) 33 239 1516
Fax: +27 (0) 33 239 1515
Cell: +27 (0) 82 877 4122