Cape Vulture Portrait

Caption: Portrait of a Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres), African Bird of Prey Sanctuary, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Vultures in southern Africa, already under threat from habitat loss, poisons, and power-line electrocution, are being further threatened by people seeking lotto riches who believe that smoking dried vulture brains brings visions of winning numbers.

According to a report in my local newspaper, The Witness, a vendor of traditional medicines in Johannesburg says the vulture brain lets you see things that others can’t see. “For lotto, you dream the numbers,” he explains. He sells a small bottle with just a speck of ground brains for about ZAR50 ($7).

At least 160 vultures are sold in southern Africa each year for “muti” or traditional medicines, according to studies by conservation groups. They fear traditional medicine could help make vultures extinct in the region within 20 to 30 years.

Cape Vulture Info: Young Cape vultures wander great distances across the African sub-continent for five or six years before they attain adulthood and return to a cliff-face colony to nest and breed.

The adults are pale in color, with honey-colored eyes. They nest along cliff faces in mountainous regions, building nests of sticks and grass. They lay only one oval egg per clutch.

Cape vultures are endemic to southern Africa and are classified as “Vulnerable” in the Red Data Book.

The African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is a self-funded care-center run by a small group of dedicated conservationists. The sanctuary’s effectiveness is hindered by insufficient funds and donations or contributions are always needed to assist research, caring for and rehabilitating birds, and educating the public. See Feathered Friends Sponsorship Program for more.

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