Gamblers 'threaten cape vultures with extinction'
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Gamblers 'threaten cape vultures with extinction'

South African gamblers who believe smoking dried vulture brains will give them the power to predict match results are putting one of Africa's largest birds of prey at risk of extinction, according to wildlife organisations.

While World Cup punters in the UK are keeping an eye on the form book and the back pages, some South Africans are apparently placing their faith in muti magic in the hope of winning big.

Conservationists believe superstition and sorcery will place even more pressure on the decreasing numbers of Cape vultures, birds which are already classified as facing global extinction.

Executive director of BirdLife South Africa, Mark Anderson, said: "Many vulture species across the world are in trouble.

"Our very own species in southern Africa is declining sharply for a number of reasons, including reduced food availability, deliberate poisoning and electrocution from electricity pylons.

"The harvesting of the bird's heads by followers of muti magic is an additional threat these birds can't endure."

The RSPB's Chris Magin said: "One in every six of the world's birds of prey are facing extinction and during the past two decades vultures have virtually vanished from West Africa, South Asia and other parts of the world."

Steve McKean, from KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, who has been studying the decline of vultures due to muti magic, said: "Our research suggests that killing of vultures for so-called 'traditional' use could render the Cape vulture extinct in some parts of South Africa within half a century.

"In the worst case, the Cape vulture could be suffering population collapse within 12 years."

Conservationists say most vultures killed for muti magic are poisoned with aldicarb, which is also lethal to humans.

Andre Botha, manager of the Birds of Prey Working Group at the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa, said: "Vultures fulfil an important ecological role as scavengers and their absence in Africa indicates an unhealthy environment.

"This threat is also known to occur widely in East and West Africa and poses a threat to all species of vulture on the African continent."

There are 841 species of birds recorded in South Africa but 39 of these are considered threatened with global extinction.

The country faces severe environmental threats including pressure from rural poverty, mining and climate change.

There are believed to be between 8,000 and 10,000 Cape vultures roaming an area of 537,500 square miles in southern Africa.

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