The white-backed vulture Gyps africanus, the most widespread and common vulture in Africa, has been uplisted from Near-Threatened to Endangered on the IUCN Red List for birds.
The white-backed vulture is one of three South African birds that have been uplisted on the list.
It occurs from Senegal, Gambia and Mali in the west, throughout the Sahel region to Ethiopia and Somalia in the east, through East Africa into Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa in the south. The species is currently undergoing a rapid decline in population numbers and faces similar threats to all the other African vultures. In East Africa, white-backed vultures are primarily threatened by poisoning - particularly from the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran; whereas in southern Africa they are utilised for the muti trade - as they are perceived to have medicinal and psychological benefits. The decline and possible extirpation in West Africa has been attributed to the trade in vulture parts for traditional ‘juju’ practices. Other threats include the loss or reduced availability of carrion, electrocution by powerlines and poisoning.
Another vulture species, Rüppell’s vulture Gyps rueppellii, a vagrant to South Africa, has similarly been uplisted from Near-Threatened to Endangered. This species, which is native to western, central and eastern Africa, faces a suite of similar threats to the white-backed Vulture.
Another South African species, the grey crowned crane Balearica regulorum, has been uplisted from Vulnerable to Endangered. This species’ survival is largely threatened by habitat loss and the illegal trade of birds and eggs from the wild, which has driven an especially rapid decline during the past three generations (45 years). The species occurs in eastern and southern Africa with two subspecies confined to the different geographical regions.
Electrocutions and collisions with overhead powerlines are largely responsible for the highest mortality of this species in South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania. An increase in coal mining, with the resultant negative impact on our wetlands, poses a major threat of habitat loss and degradation to the grey crowned crane in South Africa.
The third species, crowned eagle, Stephanoaetus coronatus, a widespread species in sub-Saharan Africa, has been globally uplisted from Least Concern to Near-Threatened. This species is undergoing a decline due to a number of threats, including deforestation across the African continent.
Of the 10 064 bird species recognised globally by BirdLife International, the status/categories of 208 have changed. Approximately 13 percent of the world’s birds are now listed as threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable) as compared to 12 percent in 2008. Another 880 (almost nine percent) have been classified as Near-Threatened in 2012.
Of the 208 category changes in 2012, only two changes were improvements (downlisted); whereas 180 were deteriorations (uplisted). Twenty-five changes resulted from taxonomic revisions and 63 were a result of improved knowledge of the species’ status, population numbers or threats faced by the species.