Collaboration for conservation allows for the release of a Cape Vulture

Posted on Fri September 8, 2023.

A joint initiative between VulPro, CapeNature, and Cango Wildlife Ranch results in the triumphant rehabilitation and release of a Cape Vulture.

VulPro, based on the outskirts of Hartebeespoort Dam in the Northwest Province, is a specialised vulture conservation organisation that also undertakes specialist rehabilitation of vultures. VulPro collects injured or grounded birds from every corner of South Africa in an effort to reduce losses - giving each bird a second chance of release and survival.

On 31 July 2023, a vulture was observed stuck, hanging by its wing on a telephone pole. The injured vulture eventually fell to the ground, and between VulPro and CapeNature, a team was dispatched to rescue this precious animal. The bird was taken to the Oakhurst Animal Clinic in Swellendam, where it was X-rayed, given fluids, wound treatment, and antibiotics. At VulPro’s request, Cango Wildlife Ranch’s buttons were pressed, and with no hesitation, they departed Oudtshoorn to fetch the bird.

Once the Cango Wildlife Ranch team returned to Oudtshoorn, with the help of their vet at Oudtshoorn Veterinary Clinic, another thorough examination took place. Thankfully, the bird sustained no fractures, and with treatment in hand, the team returned to the facility where the vulture was housed in their onsite care centre, quite ironically, with another Cape Vulture undergoing rehabilitation treatment. Being a social species, this rescue turned out to be a blessing in disguise for both birds, who could provide one another with social support during their healing. It took a few days before this vulture regained strength. Initially, fluid had to be provided subcutaneously to prevent dehydration, but after just a few days, this was no longer necessary, and it was clear that it was well on the road to recovery. Miraculously, both birds healing journeys were parallel, and the birds were moved, together, to an outdoor aviary on their Private Reserve to provide more space, in a more natural setting. Once in the aviary, this vulture improved daily, and in no time, a hidden bush cam captured him flapping his wings and jumping from perch to perch.

Content with the recovery, the vulture was declared eligible for release. VulPro dispatched a representative to Cango Wildlife Ranch, to place a tracker on the bird, and simultaneously, plans were actioned for the release.

In the early hours of 4 September, the vulture was safely crated and Cango Wildlife Ranch, with representatives from CapeNature and VulPro, hit the road enroute to the Potteberg Guest Farm which runs alongside the De Hoop Nature Reserve. Home of the only known vulture colony in the Western Cape.

Within minutes of arriving, the crate was unloaded and carried to an open area. The door of the crate was slid open, and the incredible bird took flight… instinctively knowing exactly where to go, it flew directly towards its colony. And just like that, we were left feeling thankful, proud quite simply… overwhelmed.

This truly amazing success was made possible by the collaboration and care of all parties involved; from the owner of Potteberg Guest Farm, to the wonderful staff at De Hoop Nature Reserve, the public who notified us of the fate of the bird, the efforts of CapeNature, VulPro and their leading expertise, the veterinarians who assisted, and Cango Wildlife Ranch for their housing and care. It just goes to show, together we can achieve so much more… take flight and soar!