Lead exposure in the critically endangered  bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) population in southern Africa

Publication Year:

Lead poisoning is an important threat to some raptor species, and the primary source of lead is through the ingestion of carcasses that have been shot with lead, which makes scavengers such as vultures particularly vulnerable. We examined the concentrations of lead in blood and bone tissue samples collected throughout the range of the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in southern Africa. This population is regionally critically endangered and it is not known to what extent lead poisoning may be a threat. Blood lead levels (0.62 ± 0.81 μg dL−1) from six live birds tested in 2017 indicated background levels of exposure to lead. Similarly, five live birds tested in 2009 using a less sensitive method all had blood lead levels <3 μg dL−1. Bone lead levels (11.79 ± 8.34 μg g−1) from eight birds that had died indicated lead exposure and accumulation over time, suggesting that lead may have contributed to their deaths. These levels of lead may be detrimental to the survival and fecundity of this small and declining population. Recommendations to address this threat include banning hunting and culling with lead ammunition, which is the most likely source of this pollutant. Such actions may reduce the population's susceptibility to other threats, which may be compounded by high lead levels, and help ensure the success of planned reintroduction programs. Keywords: Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus, Africa, ammunition, lead poisoning, population, threat.

Publication Title:

Journal of Raptor Research

Item Type:
Journal Article

EIS custom tag descriptions