strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff writes about behavior, in humans and other animals, on two, four, six, and eight legs, plus the occasional slither.

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Africa’s Senseless War on Vultures

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 28, 2014

(Illustration: Sophy Hollington)

(Illustration: Sophy Hollington)

I ran into this senseless war on vultures during my recent visit in South Africa, where the preferred poison is known popularly as “Two Step.”  Good to see the issue getting play in The New York Times, in this op-ed by conservation biologist Darcy L. Ogada:

NAIROBI, Kenya — IN July of last year, roughly 500 vultures died after they ate the pesticide-laced carcass of an elephant that had been killed by poachers in Namibia. It was an example of one poaching technique in Africa that seems to be on the rise: the poisoning of vultures so that authorities won’t be alerted to the location of the crime.

The overhead circling of vultures has long been used to locate lost or dead livestock. In the same way, vultures help law enforcement officers zero in on poachers.

With their keen eyesight and distinctive vantage point, vultures can locate an elephant carcass within 30 minutes of the animal’s death. It can take 45 to 70 minutes for the most skilled poachers to hack off two elephant tusks, and when vultures gather overhead rangers can get that much closer to apprehending the perpetrators. By poisoning a carcass and killing vultures en masse, poachers are trying to ensure that next time around there will be fewer of them to contend with.

Vulture conservationists began to take particular note of this development in July 2012, when an elephant was poached in Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe and 191 vultures were found scattered around the carcass, poisoned. Since then …

Read the full story here.

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