Understanding continent-wide variation in vulture ranging behavior to assess feasibility of Vulture Safe Zones in Africa: Challenges and possibilities

Adam Kane, Ara Monadjem, H. K.Ortwin Aschenborn, Keith Bildstein, André Botha, Claire Bracebridge, Evan R. Buechley, Ralph Buij, John P. Davies, Maria Diekmann, Colleen T. Downs, Nina Farwig, Toby Galligan, Gregory Kaltenecker, Chris Kelly, Ryno Kemp, Holger Kolberg, Monique L. MacKenzie, John Mendelsohn, Msafiri MgumbaRan Nathan, Aaron Nicholas, Darcy Ogada, Morgan B. Pfeiffer, W. Louis Phipps, Matteuns D. Pretorius, Sascha Rösner, Dana G. Schabo, Gabriel Lita Shatumbu, Orr Spiegel, Lindy J. Thompson, Jan A. Venter, Munir Virani, Kerri Wolter, Corinne J. Kendall*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Protected areas are intended as tools in reducing threats to wildlife and preserving habitat for their long-term population persistence. Studies on ranging behavior provide insight into the utility of protected areas. Vultures are one of the fastest declining groups of birds globally and are popular subjects for telemetry studies, but continent-wide studies are lacking. To address how vultures use space and identify the areas and location of possible vulture safe zones, we assess home range size and their overlap with protected areas by species, age, breeding status, season, and region using a large continent-wide telemetry datasets that includes 163 individuals of three species of threatened Gyps vulture. Immature vultures of all three species had larger home ranges and used a greater area outside of protected areas than breeding and non-breeding adults. Cape vultures had the smallest home range sizes and the lowest level of overlap with protected areas. Rüppell's vultures had larger home range sizes in the wet season, when poisoning may increase due to human-carnivore conflict. Overall, our study suggests challenges for the creation of Vulture Safe Zones to protect African vultures. At a minimum, areas of 24,000 km2 would be needed to protect the entire range of an adult African White-backed vulture and areas of more than 75,000 km2 for wider-ranging Rüppell's vultures. Vulture Safe Zones in Africa would generally need to be larger than existing protected areas, which would require widespread conservation activities outside of protected areas to be successful.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109516
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Apr 2022


FundersFunder number
Antczak Polich Law
Detroit Zoological Society
Eastern Cape Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism
Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency
Endangered Wildlife Trust13-11
Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority
Etosha Ecological Institute
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife
Gay Langmuir Bursary
HawkWatch International
Jon Masek
Kenya Wildlife Service
Leiden Conservation Foundation
Mankwe Wildlife Reserve
Mara Conservancy
Max Planck Institute
Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior's Department of Migration
Minerva Center for Movement Ecology
NW Nature Conservation
Narok County Council
Natural Encounters Inc.
North Carolina Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society
SWCA Environmental Consultants
San Diego Zoo Global
Saving Animals From Extinction
Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
South Africa's Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency
Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology, Tanzania National Parks and Tanzania Wildlife AuthorityNCST/5/002/R/817
U.S.-Israel Bi-national Science FoundationBSF255/2008
Wilson KilongNCST/5/002/R/448
United States Agency for International Development
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
Wildlife Conservation Society
National Geographic Society
Princeton University
Rufford Foundation
University of Utah
Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation
BirdLife International
Peregrine Fund
National Research Foundation
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
University of Pretoria
Robert Bosch Stiftung
Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología
Inyuvesi Yakwazulu-NataliAREC/094/015PD
Chester Zoo
National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation
Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute
Department of Environmental Affairs29551, 019/14/X027, 020/15/X056, 05052, 020/15/X053, 020/15/X052, 020/15/X071, 019/14/X042, 019/14/X023
Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund
Ministry of Environment and Tourism Namibia1331/2009
Tusk Trust
Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust
Taronga Conservation Society Australia


    • Africa
    • Gyps
    • Home range
    • Protected area
    • Scavenger
    • Wide-ranging


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