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This species has been uplisted to Critically Endangered due to severe declines in parts of its range. Overall it is suspected to have undergone a very rapid decline owing to habitat loss and conversion to agro-pastoral systems, declines in wild ungulate populations, hunting for trade, persecution, collision and poisoning.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: #http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
Gyps rueppelli (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously listed as G. rueppellii.
85-97 cm. Medium-sized vulture. Overall dark brown plumage with extensive pale creamy edging to body feathers. Dark flight feathers. Has a white ruff, dark neck and pale head. Distal half of the bill is pale. Juveniles have an all dark bill and paler body plumage. The centres to their body feathers are altogether less dark. Similar spp. Within its range this species could be confused with G. fulvus or G. africanus. However, both of those species are less mottled and have uniform light brown body plumage. G. africanus has an all dark bill.
Mundy et al. (1992) estimated a population perhaps of the order of 11,000 pairs, comprising 3,000 pairs in Tanzania, 2,000 in Kenya where 'up to thousands' concentrated at favoured sites, 2,000 in Ethiopia where it was said to be 'common to locally abundant', 2,000 in Sudan where was the 'most common vulture in the North', and 2,000 for West Africa. This could indicate a population of 22,000 mature individuals and perhaps c.30,000 individuals at the start of the 1990s. Subsequent extremely rapid population declines mean that the population is now likely to be much lower.
New data suggests this species has experienced a very rapid population decline of 97% (range: 94-99%) over three generations (56 years) (Ogada et al. 2015). Extremely rapid declines have been reported in West Africa (Thiollay 2006; although in Gambia it appears to be stable): during vehicle-based transect surveys in the Sahel zone of Mali and Niger in 2006 the species was not recorded, despite being common during equivalent surveys in the early 1970s. Significant declines appear to have occurred elsewhere in the range, including Sudan (Nikolaus 2006), Uganda (D. Pomeroy in litt. 2006), Kenya (M. Virani in litt. 2006, Virani et al. 2011) and Tanzania (J. Wolstencroft in litt. 2006), but it may be stable in Ethiopia (Nikolaus 2006). Virani et al. (2011) documented an apparent decline of c. 52% over c. 15 years in the numbers of Gyps vultures present during the ungulate migration season, while in central Kenya an apparent decline of 69% was noted in the numbers of Gyps vultures between 2001 and 2003 (Ogada and Keesing 2010). Declines observed in the Masai Mara study may be representative of declines in Gyps populations ranging across East Africa from Southern Ethiopia to Southern Tanzania (C. Kendall in litt. 2012).
It frequents open areas of Acacia woodland, grassland and montane regions, and it is gregarious, congregating at carrion, soaring together in flocks and breeding mainly in colonies on cliff faces and escarpments at a broad range of elevations. It locates food entirely by sight.
The species faces similar threats to other African vultures, being susceptible to habitat conversion to agro-pastoral systems, loss of wild ungulates leading to a reduced availability of carrion, hunting for trade, persecution and poisoning (Ogada et al. 2015). In East Africa, the primary issue is poisoning (particularly from the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran), which occurs primarily outside protected areas; the large range sizes of this and G. africanus puts them both at significant risk as it means they inevitably spend considerable time outside protected areas (Ogada and Keesing 2010, Otieno et al. 2010, Kendall and Virani in press). In addition, the ungulate wildlife populations on which this species relies have declined precipitously throughout East Africa, even in protected areas (Western et al. 2009).
In 2007, diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug often used for livestock, and which is fatal to Gyps spp. when ingested at livestock carcasses, was found to be on sale at a veterinary practice in Tanzania (BirdLife International 2007). In addition, it was reported that in Tanzania, a Brazilian manufacturer has been aggressively marketing the drug for veterinary purposes (C. Bowden in litt. 2007) and exporting it to 15 African countries (BirdLife International 2007). The West African population has been heavily exploited for trade, with birds commonly sold in fetish markets (Rondeau and Thiollay 2004, Nikolaus 2006, Buij et al. 2015). It is one of the most commonly traded vultures in West and Central African markets, with numbers traded (1,128-1,692 individuals over a six year period in West Africa) probably representing a significant proportion of the regional population (Buij et al. 2015). The Dogon of central Mali climb the Hombori cliffs to take eggs and chicks of this species (Rondeau and Thiollay 2004). The decline and possible extirpation in Nigeria appears to be entirely attributable to the trade in vulture parts for traditional juju practices (P. Hall in litt. 2011). It is apparently also captured for international trade. In 2005, 30 birds were reportedly confiscated by the Italian authorities (F. Genero in litt. 2005). Disturbance, especially from climbers, is a particular problem for this species. In Mali, the Hombori and Dyounde massifs are dotted with at least 47 climbing routes, on which expeditions take place every year, mainly during the species's breeding season. However, the impact of these activities is not known (Rondeau and Thiollay 2004).
Conservation and Research Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. This species occurs in a number of protected areas across Africa. It was included in a CITES Significant Trade Review. In 2007, a survey began to establish the extent of diclofenac use for veterinary purposes in Tanzania (BirdLife International 2007), and in 2008 an awareness-raising campaign at a conference of the World Organisation for Animal Health in Senegal led to a resolution being adopted unanimously by more than 160 delegates to "request Members to consider their national situation with the aim to seek measures to find solutions to the problems caused by the administration of diclofenac in livestock" (Woodford et al. 2008, C. Bowden in litt. 2008). At the 2014 Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species, a set of guidelines to address poisoning was formally adopted (Ogada et al. 2015).
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Establish legal protection for this species, particularly in West Africa. Monitor remaining populations including at colonies, perhaps through a pan-African monitoring mechanism (Rondeau and Thiollay 2004). Conserve remaining populations within protected areas. Protect breeding colonies. Maintain remaining wild ungulate herds within protected areas. Raise awareness amongst pastoralists of the dangers of using poisons for pest control. Discourage the use of diclofenac for veterinary purposes in countries where this does not already take place (BirdLife International 2007). Lobby governments to outlaw the marketing and sale of diclofenac for veterinary purposes (BirdLife International 2007). A number of recommendations were produced at the 2012 Pan-Africa Vulture Summit (Botha et al. 2012, Ogada et al. 2015): 1) Regulate import, manufacture and sale of poisons; 2) Legislate and enforce measures to prosecute those involved in illegal killing and trade in vulture species; 3) Protect and effectively manage breeding sites; 4) Ensure new energy infrastructure is 'vulture-friendly' and modify existing unsafe infrastructure; 5) Support activities to conserve vulture populations, including research and outreach activities.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
BirdLife International. 2008. Drugs firms told to do more to prevent vulture extinctions. Available at: #http://www.birdlife.org/news/news/2008/08/indian_drug_announcemment.html#.
Botha, A.J., Ogada, D.L. and Virani, M.Z. 2012. Proceedings of the Pan-African Vulture Summit. Endangered Wildlife Trust, Modderfontein, South Africa and The Peregrine Fund, Boise, ID.
Buij, R., Nikolaus, G., Whytock, R., Ingram, D.J. and Ogada, D. 2015. Trade of threatened vultures and other raptors for fetish and bushmeat in West and Central Africa. Oryx FirstView Article(http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0030605315000514).
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.
IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 November 2015).
Kendall, C. and Virani, M. 2012. Assessing mortality of african vultures using wing tags and GSM-GPS transmitters. Journal of Raptor Research.
Mundy, P.; Butchart, D.; Ledger, J.; Piper, S. 1992. The vultures of Africa. Academic Press, London.
Nikolaus, G. 2006. Commentary: where have the African vultures gone? Vulture News: 65-67.
Ogada, D., Shaw, P., Beyers, R.L., Buij, R., Murn, C., Thiollay, J.M., Beale, C.M., Holdo, R.M., Pomeroy, D., Baker, N., Krüger, S.C., Botha, A., Virani, M.Z., Monadjem, A. and Sinclair, A.R.E. 2015. Another Continental Vulture Crisis: Africa's Vultures Collapsing toward Extinction. Conservation Letters: 1-9.
Ogada, D.; Keesing, F. 2010. Decline of raptors over a three-year period in Laikipia, central Kenya. Journal of Raptor Research 44: 129-135.
Otieno, P. O.; Lalah, J. O.; Virani, M., Jondiko, I. O.; Schramm, K. 2010. Carbofuran and its toxic metabolites provide forensic evidence for Furadan exposure in vultures (Gyps africanus) in Kenya. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 84: 536-544.
Rondeau, G. and Thiollay, J.M. 2004. West African vulture decline. Vulture News 51: 13-31.
Thiollay, J.-M. 2006. Severe declines of large birds in the northern Sahel of West Africa: a long-term assessment. Bird Conservation International 16(4): 353-365.
Thiollay, J.M. 2001. Long-term changes of raptor populations in northern Cameroon. Journal of Raptor Research 35: 173-186.
Virani, M.; Kendall, C.; Njoroge, P.; Thomsett, S. 2011. Major declines in the abundance of vultures and other scavenging raptors in and around the Masai Mara ecosystem, Kenya. Biological Conservation 144: 746-752.
Western, D.; Russell, S.; Cuthill, I. 2009. The Status of Wildlife in Protected Areas Compared to Non-Protected Areas of Kenya. PLoS One 4(7): e6140.
Woodford, M. H.; Bowden, C. G. R., Shah, N. 2008. Diclofenac in Asia and Africa - repeating the same mistake? Harmonisation and improvement of registration and quality control of Veterinary Medicinal Products in Africa - OIE World Organisation for Animal Health.
Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Ndang'ang'a, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J
Barlow, C., Bowden, C., Dowsett, R., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Genero, F., Pomeroy, D., Thiollay, J., Virani, M., Wolstencroft, J., Jama, A., Hall, P., Kendall, C., Ogada, D., Brouwer, J., Anthony, A., Rainey, H., Goodwin, W. & Mhlanga, W.
The species distribution map was updated with the generous support of the African Raptor Databank, habitat INFO and the Peregrine Fund.
IUCN Red List evaluators
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Gyps rueppelli. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/02/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 11/02/2016.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.
|Current IUCN Red List category||Critically Endangered|
|Family||Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles)|
|Species name author||(Brehm, 1852)|
|Population size||22000 mature individuals|
|Distribution size (breeding/resident)||8,800,000 km2|
|Links to further information|
- Additional Information on this species|
- Projected distributions under climate change