For the last five years, Denver Zoo has worked alongside local partners in Botswana implementing a five-pronged approach to vulture conservation. Because vultures here are primarily – and increasingly – threatened by various forms of poisoning, we lead efforts to:
1) understand key aspects of vulture ecology, ranging and poisoning patterns;
2) respond to vulture poisoning events; including recording number of animals, species affected, and suspected cause of mortality, as well as removing vulture carcasses;
3) advocate on related issues such as use of dangerous pesticides and lead ammunitions;
4) work with community leaders to deliver education, awareness and engagement programs designed to elicit pro-vulture conservation attitudes and behaviors;
5) develop capacity in Botswana colleagues to achieve our goals, thereby ensuring vulture conservation efforts are sustainable and community-based.
To date, we have fitted more than 20 vultures from five different species with satellite transmitter backpacks; three of these species are critically endangered (white-backed, white-headed, and hooded) and two are endangered (lappet-faced and cape). With the help of local staff, students and partners, we have documented over 40 vulture poisoning events and have worked with several communities, reaching hundreds of participants to advocate on poison issues and deliver impactful and action-oriented vulture conservation programs.
Contact Denver Zoo's Amy Levine for more info on their programs.
North Carolina Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society, Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA)
In 2012, vulture experts identified Southern Tanzania as an area likely to be important for vultures, but where little was currently known. To address this gap, North Carolina Zoo in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society conducted the first vulture roadside surveys in southern Tanzania in 2013. Data from Ruaha and Katavi National Park confirmed the importance of this landscape for African vultures, with high vulture abundance and currently low threats. Since 2013, NC Zoo and WCS have established and implemented a collaborative vulture monitoring program in Ruaha and Katavi, working closely with Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA) staff. We have conducted two trainings with TANAPA rangers on vulture conservation and have established a protocol for addressing poisoning events.
What is an ssp?
The mission of an AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population within AZA-accredited Zoos and Aquariums, Certified Related Facilities, and approved Non-Member Participants.
There are currently more than 300 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs), within AZA. Each is responsible for developing a comprehensive population Studbook and a Breeding and Transfer Plan which identifies population management goals and recommendations to ensure the sustainability of a healthy, genetically diverse, and demographically varied AZA population.
Many of these SSP Programs represent species that urgently need to be conserved and protected in the wild, such as the giant panda, California condor, and lowland gorilla. SSP Programs, as well as AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums, significantly contribute to field conservation efforts, species recovery, veterinary care for wildlife disease issues, establishment of assurance populations, as well as many other species-focused conservation.
Full information on Species Survival Plans from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is located here.