The only remaining colony of Cape Vultures in the Western Cape is situated in the Potberg Mountain of De Hoop Nature Reserve, where the colony roosts and nests in a deeply incised gorge. They have managed to climb back from an all time low of around 30 birds in the 1970s to between 175 – 200 birds at present. They share also their cliffs with Peregrine Falcons, Verreaux’s Eagles Jackal Buzzards and Rock Kestrels, making this gorge an important area for the raptors and vultures.
What makes this colony really interesting is that the birds have given up scavenging on natural prey such as the Eland and Bontebok that occur in good numbers in the De Hoop Nature Reserve and have chosen instead to feed only on the carcasses of livestock. With the Overberg being a sheep and dairy farming area this fortunately means that there is a regular supply of food for the vultures and happily the farmers in the area are very positive and proud of “their” vultures.
In fact, without the help of the farmers and the community, the vultures would probably have died out some time ago. A couple of the farmers have even taken to creating “vulture-restaurants” where the carcasses of livestock are taken to a safe location and where the birds can come down to feed without being disturbed. The farmers are also very watchful for any sick vultures and when one is found, the bird is quickly collected and taken through to the Bredasdorp veterinary clinic. The vets gladly treat the sick birds at no cost and allow them to recover in a specially built and secluded cage at the back of the clinic. As soon as the vultures are well enough they are returned to the colony and released.
This is definitely a good news story for conservation and clearly shows that the communities neighboring protected areas can play a very positive role in the protection and conservation of endangered species if they are given the opportunity to be proud of their inputs.