Vul­ture -watch­ing

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Travel -

High over­head the vul­tures cir­cle, spi­ralling out of the blue to­wards the Vic­to­ria Falls Ho­tel. They are wait­ing for 1pm, when a feast of meat scraps and bones is put out for them – and you can watch this avian fly-past ev­ery day from the ho­tel’s Buf­falo Bar view­ing decks.

The Vul­ture Cul­ture Ex­pe­ri­ence is part of Africa Al­bida’s Green Steps to Sus­tain­able Tourism ini­tia­tive, a con­ser­va­tion project run by the ho­tel’s own­ers to pro­tect these en­dan­gered birds and ed­u­cate vis­i­tors about the vi­tal role they play in main­tain­ing the bal­ance of the nat­u­ral world.

Vul­tures are na­ture’s san­i­ta­tion squad. By gob­bling up dead an­i­mals they keep the en­vi­ron­ment clean and dis­ease free. A sin­gle bird can eat up to 1kg of meat at a sit­ting and a flock can dis­pose of an en­tire car­cass in hours.

What­ever you think of their un­savoury feed­ing habits, flight trans­forms vul­tures into crea­tures of match­less soar­ing grace.

Species you may see at the Vul­ture Cul­ture Ex­pe­ri­ence in­clude white­headed, hooded, lap­pet­faced, Cape and white­backed vul­tures.

These birds face man­made changes that threaten their ex­is­tence. Many die in col­li­sions with elec­tri­cal struc­tures. Oth­ers per­ish as a re­sult of land-use changes and ex­po­sure to tox­ins, while one poi­soned car­cass put out to get rid of lions or hye­nas can kill more than a hun­dred birds at a time.

The feed­ing pro­gramme aids their sur­vival with­out cre­at­ing de­pen­dence and al­lows vul­ture num­bers to be mon­i­tored.

Vis­i­tors can also par­tic­i­pate. If you spot a vul­ture with wing tags, note the species and the colour of the tag and pass the in­for­ma­tion to the ac­tiv­i­ties desk at the Vic­to­ria Falls Sa­fari Lodge.

To book: africaal­bida­tourism.com

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