Identifying anthropogenic threats to Cape Vultures Gyps coprotheres using community perceptions in communal farmland, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

13 Sep 2016

Declines in Old World vulture populations have been linked to anthropogenic pressures. To assess these threats, the social dimensions of vulture conservation must be explored. Prior research in Africa focused on commercial farmers’ perceptions of vultures and identified that small stock farmers used poison more than large stock farmers to deter livestock predators. However, the vulnerable Cape Vulture, Gyps coprotheres, breeds throughout communal farmland in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. Consequently, community interviews were conducted within the vultures’ foraging range of the Msikaba Cape Vulture colony, separating regions according to the amount of transformed land. Residents in the least transformed land region perceived the smallest reductions in livestock ownership over the past ten years. While residents of the moderately transformed region perceived the greatest reductions in livestock ownership. Livestock carcasses were reported to be available for vultures at ‘informal vulture restaurants’. Arrangement of livestock carcasses was found to be independent of land use; however type of carcass consumed varied. None of the respondents stated they used poison to eliminate livestock predators. More respondents cited illegal poaching of vultures for traditional medicine as a threat. Despite this pressure, the majority stated that vultures benefited the community.