Two Denver Zoo employees, along with a long-time zoo supporter, rode their bikes yesterday in a 109 kilometer tour (67.7 miles) in South Africa to raise money to build a vulture restaurant in Botswana at the Wildlife Research Base in Ghanzi. The trio participated in the 35th Annual Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, one of the world’s largest one-day road races.
Dr. Richard Reading, the Zoo’s vice president of conservation, Dr. Dave Kenny, the Zoo’s conservation veterinary coordinator, and Cyndy Klepinger, a zoo supporter, joined 77 other vulture lovers on the Kanabo Conservation Link team to ride the route around Cape Town that is as spectacular as it is grueling. The team wants to raise money as well as awareness to the fact that the African vulture populations are spiraling toward extinction.
The Zoo recently partnered with this South Africa-based non-profit to research why the decline of the vulture population is occurring in southern Africa. Researchers have determined vultures are dying from feeding on poisoned carcasses. Poachers routinely poison the bodies of animals they kill so that watchful rangers cannot investigate a column of vultures circling overhead. It has been reported that more than 600 vultures died last year after feeding on a single poisoned elephant carcass. Ranchers also poison carcasses to control the number of large carnivores that kill their livestock. Vultures are also dying from lead poisoning by ingesting fragmented spent ammunition from hunters and ranchers using lead bullets to kill animals and then leaving the remains for the vultures.
The money raised by this charity team will be used to establish and run a vulture restaurant in Botswana that serves food free of poison and lead. Meat will be donated by local ranchers. The restaurant will include a blind to conceal the conservation biologists and their students as they work on high impact conservation research and an education hub where children, members of the community and tourists can learn more about these important birds.
If you want to help build a vulture restaurant, you can make a contribution to Denver Zoo.