Vultures under threat due to ritual use 

SHARE   |   Monday, 11 September 2017   |   By Philimon Mmeso 

Another threat to Africa’s largest and most recognisable birds of prey – vultures – has emerged in Botswana and seems deadlier. Conservation Officer at Birdlife Botswana Botilo Tshimologo said that early this month two herdsmen were arrested with two vulture chicks in Tsetsebjwe by the officers at Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP). Upon questioning, the two suspects revealed that they were sent by a spiritual healer to bring the two chicks. The two chicks are currently recuperating at Mmokolodi Nature Reserve, revealed Tshimologo. Tshimologo said this is a new development as initially they were not aware that in Botswana vultures were also used for ritual purposes and fears that the birds could be driven to extinction within two or three decades. “This is scarier as they are targeting chicks which might lead to the extinction of the species if the trafficking is not stopped,” said the worried Tshimologo. He said they are currently doing investigations to find out to which extent vultures are connected to ritual healings among Batswana and some African traditional religions. In South Africa, gambling has been linked to the increase in vulture poaching as traditional healers believe vulture heads can make you see into the future. Traditional healers believe that sleeping with a vulture's head gives a person clairvoyant powers and the ability to predict sports scores, Lotto numbers and the like. This, Tshimologo believes, could be spreading to Botswana and had to be arrested before it spread. Tshimologo noted that vulture conservation is highly imperative so as not to jeopardise the future of the unborn generations, pleading for a sustainable pathway to reduce and ultimately combat vulture decline. Vultures serve as nature’s vital clean-up crew, resist toughest bacteria, viruses and prevent spread of diseases and epidemic caused by animal corpses and their extinction will consequently spread deadly diseases, parasites, lead to emergence of new and more deadly epidemic, increased environmental pollutants, loss of historical past and personality.