Conservation in action!
In October 2017 Shell visited South Africa on behalf of Gauntlet Conservation Trust to see how funds raised at Gauntlet for Gauntlet Conservation Trust have helped support the vulture rehabilitation center Vulpro.
Gauntlet Conservation Trust has supported Vulpro Vulture conservation center for a number of years now, and in 2016 Gauntlet Conservation Trust funded a brand new aviary for the African White Backed Vultures which have found themselves in the care of Vulpro.
Shell joined the Vulpro team for 10 days to work as a volunteer. The daily routine included preparing feed for the vultures, feeding, cleaning aviaries, helping with health checking, collecting carcasses from farms, to name a few! There was also the Vulture Restaurant to keep stocked and clean, and a visit to the Nooitgedacht release site. Here's a little insight into her visit and the work that Gauntlet Conservation Trust support...
The African White-Backed Vulture Aviary
One major project that the trust has fully funded at VulPro is the building of a brand new aviary for the captive African White-Backed Vultures who have ended up at VulPro after a traumatic event in their life. The trust sent a total of around £6400 to VulPro to complete the building which when I arrived had been established for a year or so. In 2017 two chicks had been bred in the aviary and both were doing really well. I was lucky enough to watch as this guy (pictured) fledged from his nest and came down to the carcass to eat with the other adult Vultures! It was really special seeing him take his first flutters into the grown up world, especially since the team at VulPro had to hand rear him from an early age. This year (2018) the two chicks from this aviary have both been released into the wild to re populate the South African numbers. If the parents of these chicks had not been taken in by VulPro, these chicks wouldn’t be here. Because of your generous donations to Gauntlet Conservation Trust they have a safe and secure home where they feel happy enough to breed.
Their parents each would have sustained various injuries which has lead them to be partly or fully disabled. These injuries are mainly a result of the powerlines cropping up around South Africa, which is a fight Kerri and her team at VulPro fight on a daily basis. Vultures are not designed to look above them, their main goal is to look down and scour the landscape for carcasses to feed from. Power line wires are hard to spot mid flight, so Vultures are crashing into them, breaking wings or even electrocuting themselves in places, and grounding themselves. Unable to fly, and no doubt in a lot of pain, these Vultures are facing certain death. However with more and more people becoming aware of the issue VulPro are receiving calls to Vultures in trouble and will travel hundreds of miles throughout day and night to rescue these traumatised birds. Once back at VulPro the dedicated team work tirelessly to make the casualty as comfortable as possible whilst a prognosis is made. Occasionally injuries can be fixed, and with a little TLC and some time to recuperate the Vulture can be back out in the wild. Unfortunately this is not always the case, certain breaks cannot be fixed and therefore the wing will need to be amputated. In this case the Vulture would not survive out in the wild, but in the safety of VulPro it gets a second chance at life. They have the opportunity to live as normal a life as possible, feeding from carcasses, living in a social community, pairing up and producing young, and this is what you are helping to support when you support Gauntlet Conservation Trust.
Much of my “spare time” at VulPro I spent simply watching the Vultures. Watching them interact with each other, watching them go about their daily business, and watching the wild Vultures feed at the restaurant. There was no difference in the behaviours between the wild and captive Vultures apart from the obvious ability to fly. It was then that it really did hit home how important if not essential VulPro is to these guys. Unfortnuatley it doesn't seem as though there will be a time soon when Vultures will not need VulPro, so with your ongoing support of Gauntlet Conservation Trust you are directly helping these Vultures, and helping fight the long hard battle against this much unspoken about crisis.