New animal die-off event kills over 600 vultures: What caused their deaths?

More than 600 vultures were found dead in West Africa due to a new and ongoing mass animal die-off event

Reports from a conservation group confirmed that an ongoing mass animal die-off event in West Africa has already killed over 600 vultures. The group noted that a species of vulture listed as critically endangered has been affected by the event.

The latest die-off event is currently affecting vultures in Guinea-Bissau, a country in West Africa. It was detected and reported by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF).

Cause Of The Die-Off

Over 600 vultures found dead in new mass die-off event. Pixabay

The VCF confirmed the die-off event last month after receiving reports that about 200 vultures were found dead in the eastern province of Bafata. Then, the death toll increased substantially until it reached 648 on February 28. Experts believe more vultures will die in the region as the die-off event continues.

Due to the high number of deaths within a short period, investigators initially believed that the birds were poisoned. However, after further investigations, authorities ruled out poisoning since this kind of incident tends to appear only in concentrated areas. Currently, investigators and conservation experts are still trying to determine the exact cause of the die-off.

Local Response To The Die-off

A baby Bearded Vulture
A baby Bearded Vulture Reuters

The mysterious event has prompted the country's Ministries of Public Health, Agriculture and Forestry and the Secretary of State for the Environment to deploy quick response teams to Bafata in an attempt to contain the die-off. To minimize the possible spread of poison, virus or infection to other vultures, the response teams have started incinerating the carcasses.

The VCF praised the local agencies' quick efforts. Aside from curbing the die-off event, getting rid of the carcasses will also ensure public health safety. "The authorities so far have been very responsive and acted quickly – this needs to be maintained until the cause of mortality is found," Jose Tavares, the director of the VCF said in a statement.

Effect On Endangered Vultures

The latest die-off event is being regarded as a huge blow to conservation efforts directed at vultures. As noted by the VCF, vulture populations in Africa have dramatically declined within recent years. This prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list three species of vultures as endangered and another four as critically endangered.

According to reports, one of the vulture species most affected by the ongoing die-off event is the Hooded Vulture. As noted by the VCF, this is one of the species listed as critically endangered by the IUCN.