Whitleyaward: The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is renowned for its wildlife: lion, elephant, wildebeest, zebra and giraffe. Encircling them all is an overlooked guardian – the vultures, comprising six threatened species, four of them Critically Endangered. This “clean-up crew” is vital to the health and hygiene of the plains. Referred to locally as “Serengeti soap,” these scavengers swiftly consume rotting carcasses, preventing the spread of disease. However the value of vultures is only really understood once they start disappearing.
Suffering a precipitous decline in numbers of over 70% in 30 years, East African vultures are collateral damage in the war between livestock herders and predators. In retaliation for the loss of livestock to big cats, farmers resort to poisoning carcasses in the hope of reducing predator numbers. The subsequent incidental killing of vultures is catastrophic, with effects reverberating throughout the entire ecosystem.
Bowled over by raptors, Munir Virani swapped his early cricketing ambitions for a lifetime studying the drivers of vulture declines in Asia and Africa to inform conservation action. He now leads The Peregrine Fund’s Africa programme. His successful scheme to mitigate vulture poisoning by engaging communities in the Masai Mara saw cases drop by nearly 50% in 2016 and he is now poised to scale up.
The Matira team has been supporting the work of the Peregrine Fund for many years and is proud of the success of Munir, who has long since become a part and good friend of Matira. We hope to put an end to the poisoning of wild animals and restore the balance of the Maasai Mara.