Every summer, 500.000 wildebeests die in the Maasai Mara and the vultures remove their carcasses. But what happens when the “caretakers” of the savannah die out? If their nature is endangered by human intervention in the sensitive ecosystem? Ben Solomon reported the New York Times (video) in a 30-year study on the decline of the African vulture. It now turned out that their population has fallen by a frightening 62 percent. The reasons for this are varied.
The vultures do not only eliminate the remains of deceased animals, they are also signaling devices and signposts for animal protectionists, because when an animal dies, it only takes a few minutes for the vultures to start to circling over the dead body.
When it comes to elephants and lions, help is quickly in sight, but for the vultures the local authorities have no open ear. Anthony Ole Tira, co-owner of the Matira Bush Camp, stands at the river of the Mara River and points to an area covered by carrion. A week earlier, 900.000 wildebeests crossed the river, trampling thousands of animals to death. That is normal. The rotting remains of the dead animals, a week later, are not. “Ten years ago the carcasses had now been removed by the vultures,” says Antony. “There are many places along the Mara River, which are not as clean as they once were – because there are no longer enough vultures.” A village oldest Maasai reports that the government used poison against the spread of wild dogs two decades ago. In the following years the locals observed the decline of the vulture population for the first time. “Now we are worried that they will not come back,” he says. When the vultures continue to die, the idyllic “Maasai Mara” becomes a stinking pit, adds Antony Tira.
The Matira Bushcamp has been working for the endangered vulture for several years. Monika Braun, also co-owner of the camp, said: “We have been supporting the research of the “Peregrine Fund” since 2010 and help to understand the problems on the ground. In addition, we have helped the team of researchers to implement an extensive program to preserve the animals. Also, the enlightenment of the locals is part of the program, so that people can understand the important role of the vulture in the conservation of the ecosystem.”