Scientific Name: Gyps africanus Afrikaans Name: Witrugaasvoel Zulu Name: iNqe Elimhlophe Emhlane
This species is smaller than the Cape vulture and although the species is the most widespread vulture in Southern Africa, they are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in the Red Data Book. It is severely threatened by the cultural belief that vultures locate their food with a clairvoyant ability. As a result vultures are killed and their body parts used for traditional medicine purposes. Research has shown, however, that it is in fact their excellent vision that enables the vulture to ‘see’ the carcass or other scavengers from kilometres away. They see about eight times better than humans do, which is the equivalent of looking though a pair of binoculars. They can also glide at speeds of 58 to 65 km per hour and when diving down to a carcass they can reach a speed of 120 km per hour.
The White-backed Vultures at the Sanctuary are named Vinny and Clifford Vinny was spotted on the ground in the Pongola area. Vultures are often seen on the ground and provide an invaluable clean up service, ridding our veld of carcasses and preventing the spread of disease. A week later the farmer saw him at the same place and realized there was a problem. Vinny had been electrocuted and when he arrived here the front of his wings looked like biltong. After many operations he is still not able to fly properly, but can at least hold his wings symmetrically and certainly hold his own with the bigger vultures! Clifford is the most disabled of our large captive vultures as he only has one wing. He has learnt to adapt well however has he has to compete for food with six other birds. So, you may ask, how does he do it? Well, he swallows really fast!!