We love vultures and a big part of our work is finding out more about them! Watch this video to see our Head of Conservation and Research, Dr Campbell Murn, conducting field work as part of a project on Hooded Vultures in Southern Africa. In this region, the Hooded Vulture is an elusive species. It mainly occurs in protected areas and places where the human population density is low and there has been little research conducted on Hooded Vultures in southern Africa, which has limited our understanding of its ecology.
Like many other vulture species, Hooded Vultures are listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. Although we know that it faces significant threats to its survival – such as the threat of intentional poisoning by ivory poachers – we need more evidence to demonstrate the impact of these threats on the population in order to direct our conservation actions more effectively. With this ambitious research project, we hope to learn more about Hooded Vulture ecology in southern Africa, with the ultimate aim of protecting this important scavenger from extinction.
The project has three main areas of investigation: characterising nest sites, determining breeding success, and estimating the population size. Project fieldwork is carried out along the main river systems in Kruger National Park and along the Limpopo River in Mapungubwe National Park. Surveys, primarily on foot, are used to locate Hooded Vulture nests.
Although we know that Hooded Vultures nest in large trees along rivers, we need to understand more about how the species relates to its surrounding ecosystem and what key habitat and landscape features are associated with nest sites. Here Campbell is surveying the river characteristics using a dumpy level, these are quite commonly used on building sites. Here he is using the dumpy level to measure the river channel profile and geometry. This helps us to understand the river processes in relation to where Hooded Vulture nests are.
The project began in 2016, and we still have a lot more research to do to fully understand the ecology of Hooded Vultures in southern Africa. This type of research is essential to ensure these habitats are conserved to ensure a future for this charismatic and unique species. To find out more about this project visit our website or come along to the Trust for a day out and see our Hooded Vulture team in action!