A PRIVATE nature reserve in southern Namibia has created a vulture restaurant to keep the endangered birds away from poisoned carcasses and at the same time study their habits.
The vulture restaurant is at the NamibRand Nature Reserve (NRNR), south of Sossusvlei.
Providing food to vultures, writes conservationist Marc Durr, will minimise their exposure to poisoned carcasses put out by farmers.
Other problems faced by vultures are habitat loss, disturbance at nest sites, drowning in reservoirs and direct persecution through shooting and trapping.
Durr said in 1991, 425 lapped-faced vultures were ringed in the Namib-Naukluft Park but the ringed birds were rarely seen again.
It is hoped that the vulture restaurant will give researchers the opportunity to observe the birds at close range while they are feeding.
"A restaurant that vultures are attracted to fairly regularly provides a good opportunity to monitor marked birds," said Durr.
This, he said, has been shown at the REST vulture restaurant at Waterberg.
In addition, the restaurant might reveal whether there are other vulture species on the reserve.
Vultures are often regarded as dirty scavengers but they perform a valuable service in keeping the environment free of rotting animal carcasses.
Feeding vultures dates back to 1966 in South Africa and in 1970 in France.
The reason for this was that the environment in which the birds were living was rapidly changing and their adaptation to the changes was too slow.
Liz Komen of the Namibia Animal Rehabilitation, Research and Education Centre (Narrec) said it was good idea for NRNR to set up a restaurant for vultures, as the vulture population has declined in that area, mainly because of poisoning and destruction of their breeding sites.
The construction of the vulture restaurant, including the hide, toilets, stairs and paths, started in April last year and was completed in May of the same year.
The facilities were built by two groups of volunteers from Raleigh International.
The Namib Rand Nature Reserve's Vulture Hide and Restaurant will be officially opened on Friday, July 6.