Cape Vulture chicks breeding in the Tswapong Hills in eastern Botswana are developing wing and foot deformities (osteodystrophy) due to a lack of calcium in their diet. Cape Vultures are particularly susceptible as they often nest in “shady” cliff edges and get reduced vitamin D (created from sunlight exposure), which helps absorb calcium. The chicks with the deformities are otherwise healthy but die because of the condition; their inability to fly with deformed wings means that they starve to death. Communities in Botswana also need to be more aware of the importance of vultures in order to reduce threats to vultures.
The grantee will conduct supplementary bone fragment feeding in the vicinity of a minimum of 493 pairs of breeding adult Cape Vultures, using a minimum of 8 kg of broken up bones once every three weeks. Direct observations and the use of two camera traps will allow the project to check adult vultures feeding to ensure bone fragments are consumed.
The project will also be monitoring the numbers of breeding pairs and of fledged chicks at the end of the breeding cycle to assess the presence of wing or feet deformities.
Vulture conservation awareness programmes are taking place at the village Kgotla in each of the six key communities located near the breeding sites at Tswapong Hills.
As a result of this project, the grantee hopes to ensure that fledged chicks are able to fly and do not starve to death. This will hopefully also allow the numbers of Cape Vultures breeding at the two colonies to remain stable or increase.
This project is a part of the IUCN SOS African Wildlife initiative, which is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (DG Devco) through its B4Life initiative.