This species has declined severely in parts of its range and 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. These declines are likely to continue into the future. For this reason it has been uplisted to Endangered.
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.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and populationGyps 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. adricanus has an all dark bill.
occurs throughout the Sahel region of Africa from Senegal, Gambia
in the west to Sudan, South Sudan
in the east. Also south through the savanna regions of East Africa in Kenya, Tanzania
. Formerly abundant, the species has experienced extremely rapid declines in much of its range, particularly West Africa. Although in Gambia it is apparently stable (C. Barlow in litt
, comparative data have shown some colonies in Mali (J. M. Thiollay in litt
. 2006) and South Sudan (Nikolaus 2006)
have declined by up to 96% and 100% respectively, and it may no longer occur in Nigeria (no sightings in 2011 in last stronghold of Yankari Game Reserve, nor anywhere else in the country, P. Hall in ltt.
2011). Surveys of the Sudano-Sahelian savannas of Burkino Faso, Mali and Niger, carried out in 1969-1973 and 2003-2004, indicate a drop in the species's abundance from 61.3 birds/100 km to 2.5 birds/100 km (Rondeau and Thiollay 2004)
. It has also declined in Cameroon (87% decline 1973-2000, Thiollay 2001) Uganda
(D. Pomeroy in litt
. 2006), Kenya (M. Virani in litt
(A. Jama in litt.
2011), Malawi (gone from Kasungu and Liwonde National Parks, where previously common, L. Roxburgh in litt.
2011) and Tanzania (J. Wolstencroft in litt
, but may be stable in Ethiopia (Nikolaus 2006)
. Since the 1990s there has been a series of records involving small numbers of individuals in Spain and Portugal; these are believed to have crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with migrating G. fulvus
, but breeding is not yet known to have taken place in Iberia. Now largely confined to protected areas throughout its range. Population justification
Mundy et al
. (1992). Trend justification
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 G. rueppelli
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). Overall trends are difficult to quantify but are suspected to have exceeded 50% over three generations (56 years).Ecology
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. Threats
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. 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
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)
. For example, 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.
. 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 actions underway
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).Conservation 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).
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Mundy, P.; Butchart, D.; Ledger, J.; Piper, S. 1992. The vultures of Africa. Academic Press, London.
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.
Nikolaus, G. 2006. Commentary: where have the African vultures gone? Vulture News: 65-67.
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.
Rondeau, G. and Thiollay, J.M. 2004. West African vulture decline. Vulture News 51: 13-31.
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.
Ogada, D.; Keesing, F. 2010. Decline of raptors over a three-year period in Laikipia, central Kenya. Journal of Raptor Research 44: 129-135.
Thiollay, J.M. 2001. Long-term changes of raptor populations in northern Cameroon. Journal of Raptor Research 35: 173-186.
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.
Kendall, C.; Virani, M. in press. Assessing mortality of african vultures using wing tags and GSM-GPS transmitters. Journal of Raptor Research.
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
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Ndang'ang'a, P., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
Barlow, C., Bowden, C., Brouwer, J., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Dowsett, R., Genero, F., Hall, P., Jama, A., Kendall, C., Ogada, D., Pomeroy, D., Thiollay, J., Virani, M., Wolstencroft, J.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Gyps rueppellii. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/05/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 26/05/2013.
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.
Additional resources for this species