Blood lead levels in White-Backed Vultures (Gyps africanus) from Botswana, Africa

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Currently vulture populations in sub-Saharan Africa are dramatically declining due to direct and indirect poisoning with pesticides (Ogada 2014, Virani 2011). During a tagging and radio telemetry study from 2012 thru 2015 involving several species of vultures in Botswana, the Denver Zoological Foundation in collaboration with Raptors Botswana investigated lead exposure as another issue that might affect the persistence of vultures in Africa in the future. Lead toxicity in avian species manifests itself as a cumulative, multi-systemic disease affecting the liver, kidney, heart, gastrointestinal, hematopoietic, reproductive, and nervous systems (Locke & Thomas 1996, Redig & Cruz-Martinez 2009). It is the most common heavy metal poison reported for avian species, including raptors (Mautino 1997). Lead toxicity from hunter-spent lead ammunition is the major impediment to the recovery of the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in North America (Finkelstein et al. 2012, Stringfield 2012). There have been documented lead toxicity reports for vultures from both the New World (South and North America) and the Old World (Europe, Africa, and Asia). Vulture species reported with lead toxicity include the New World Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), California Condor, and Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) and the Old World Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Pyrenean Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), Eurasian Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus) and Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus). However, we discovered no published reports for lead toxicity in African vultures.

Publication Title:

Vulture News

Item Type:
Journal Article

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