Otjiwarongo — Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism, Uahekua Herunga, says vultures are part of the ecosystem and are helpful to farmers and should thus be preserved.
He made these remarks at the official opening of the Otjiwa Vulture Restaurant and Rehabilitation Centre on Friday. The centre is located some 40 kilometres outside Otjiwarongo.
“Vultures really are farmers’ friends. By circ-ling over dead animals, they can alert the farmer to dead livestock and a post-mortem can be carried out to determine the cause of death. Vultures consume carcasses quickly and thereby prevent the spread of diseases to livestock and the breeding of blowflies,” explained the deputy minister.
By creating vulture restaurants, farmers contribute to vulture conservation efforts with practical, economic and hygienic carcass disposal methods. “Farmers can also make meaningful contributions to research by recording the numbers and species of vultures that visit the restaurant and by reporting marked birds. In Namibia, the first vulture restaurant was established in 1987 in the Waterberg Plateau Park and many more have been established since,” he noted.
Herunga said vultures are slow breeders that produce a single chick once every two years. Hence it is important to keep as many adult breeding birds in the population as possible to bolster breeding success.
“This is where rehabilitation centres can play an important role by nursing sick and injured birds back to health and then releasing them back into the wild,” he said. He pointed out that centres such as Otjiwa can make an important contribution to the conservation of Namibia’s vultures by providing education and awareness about the many benefits a healthy vulture population can bring.
Initiatives such as these add value to the work that his ministry is doing – that of ensuring the long-term survival of vultures and other important birds of prey. “The year 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity and it is encouraging to see developments such as this one, even in time of global economic downturn. This, to me, demonstrates a commitment to biodiversity conservation and I wish you all success with this venture in future,” he concluded, before he released a vulture that was being nursed at the centre into the wild.
The vulture had been nursed at the centre for several months after it was poisoned somewhere in the north and a Good Samaritan brought it to the centre for rehabilitation.
At the same occasion, another vulture was also released into the wild after several months of nursing at the centre. Otjozondjupa Regional Governor Ferdinand Kavetuna, Otjiwarongo Deputy Mayor Hilda Jesaya and several government officials attended the event.