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Feb 12, 2015

Bearded Vulture: a.k.a. the 'bone breaker'

 Painting by Robert Bateman
 Photo by Anthony Migeon
Gypaetus barbatus
Photo by Chris Schenk 

Satellite tracking technology has solved the mystery of the gradual disappearance  of one of Africa's most famous birds: the Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture).   Once widespread in southern Africa, the Lammergeier is now critically endangered, with nesting sites declining almost 50% since the 1960s. The remaining birds are now limited to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa and Lesotho and continue to decline there as well.   Now satellite tracking attached to 18 of the big birds has confirmed the worst fears.   Human beings are largely to blame, with power line collisions and poisons being the major hazards that killed half of the birds in the tracking survey. Climate change appeared not to be a factor.   Recent findings show the most detailed picture yet of the challenges facing the Lammengeier, also known as the 'bone breaker' due to its habit of dropping bones from a height and feeding on the marrow inside.   The tracking is hoped to become a key factor in determining survival strategies for Bearded Vultures, across the entire African continent.

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