These majestic birds are scavenging for a safer life
Vultures have a reputation as bloodthirsty scavengers. With their keen ability to spot a decaying carcass to feed off, they don’t appear to be in need of any help. But Kerri Wolter knows better. She’s seen our local vulture population rapidly decline by 80 percent in the past two decades. The birds face the threat of electrocution from power lines, contamination from poisoned carrion, and the risk of being killed for their brains and bones, which are thought to contain spiritual properties.
Wolter has been caring for these overlooked birds since 2003. Initially an accounts analyst, a chance meeting with the then head of the Vulture Study of the Endangered Wildlife Trust led to Wolter’s interest in the plight of vultures. In 2007, she established VulPro, an NPO that works towards the conservation and breeding of the scavengers. But it wasn’t an easy process. When a personal relationship went sour, Wolter lost her farm which homed the vulture project. She didn’t lose her drive and redoubled her efforts. Today, the organisation is based in the Magaliesberg, home to one of the largest breeding populations of the endangered Cape Vulture. Wolter rescues injured and poisoned birds and rehabilitates them for release.
Wolter’s work, which extends to research, education, breeding, and tracking, is creating a future for hundreds of vultures that would otherwise be left for dead. It’s a situation we can’t afford to have as vultures play a necessary role in our ecosystem. “Vultures are hugely important because they help reduce the spread of diseases,” Wolter explains. “Without them, we lose wildlife, domestic animals, and we lose our natural resources.” Wolter has been shortlisted for the Tusk Conservation Award for her holistic approach to vulture conservation. “I find vultures incredibly beautiful. Most people don’t,” she says. “And somebody needs to give them the attention they deserve.” Wolter has done just that, and in the process, given a second chance to hundreds of these majestic and fearsome creatures.