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African Birdlife|January/February 2022
"In august 2020 the results of the critical vulture nesting survey held annually in Zululand, northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), were sobering."
By Ingrid Weiersbye. Photography by Malcolm Sutton

Initially wary and hesitant, a group including immature White-backed Vultures approaches the carrion, then surges forward as the first birds show courage and seize a morsel.

The only known White-headed Vulture nest remaining in the province was unused – the birds had failed to produce a chick and no new nest was found. The long-held fear was realised that this species is now formally categorised as ‘extinct as a breeding bird’ in KZN.

This depressing news and the intermittent mass deaths of other KZN vulture species, primarily by poisoning, galvanised stakeholders to form a haven in Zululand. Announced by BirdLife South Africa on 5 September 2020, the 200 000-hectare Zululand Vulture Safe Zone encompasses 14 properties, including private nature reserves and game farms. One of the measures applied in the safe zone is supplemental feeding at so-called ‘vulture restaurants’ in an attempt to reverse the decline by enticing birds away from high-risk foraging areas. More than 40 restaurants have been set up on participating private landowners’ properties in the region.

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