Vultures on pylons study launched

8 February 2008

Eskom, in association with the Rhino and Lion Wildlife Conservation organisation, has launched the Vulture Enclosure research project in an effort to reduce the number of vultures and other birds from being electrocuted on power lines at Skeerpoort, in the Hartebeespoort Dam area to the west of Pretoria.

Eskom said in a statement on Wednesday that the project aimed to reduce bird electrocutions in the identified danger zones on pylons with the application of cost-effective measures such as insulation covers and bird diverters.

Eskom Corporate Services MD Steve Lennon said the vulture enclosure would serve a dual purpose: “Firstly, it will allow the rehabilitated vultures the opportunity to recuperate before they are released back into the wild; secondly, it will support research studies in vulture behaviour on the identified problem towers in order to prevent and limit the continuous vulture electrocutions on power lines.”

It was difficult and time-consuming in the past to observe vulture behaviour on problematic Eskom structures, as mitigation methods were based on laboratory simulation studies combined with field observations and assumptions.

The vulture enclosure will provide the research team with the opportunity to monitor in detail actual vulture behaviour patterns on the structures and their reactions towards various mitigation methods applied in various scenarios.

The enclosure will therefore serve as a field laboratory to approve effective mitigation products and the rehabilitation of injured vultures.

Vulture Programme manager Kerri Wolter believes the partnership supports work being undertaken by Eskom to address the threats that South Africa’s vultures are facing.

“What we have begun for Magaliesberg is an example of what could be done throughout southern Africa,” Wolter said. “Power lines are one of our major threats causing the ongoing decline of vultures, and Eskom has shown their conservation value and drive to conserve this vulnerable species through this initiative.”

“This is a perfect example of what organisations should be doing to help conserve our natural heritage.”

SAinfo reporter

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