Vultures are often seen as symbols of death and evil, but they also play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature. They are scavengers that feed on carcasses and prevent the spread of diseases. They are also magnificent birds that can soar high in the sky and have a strong bond with their mates. Unfortunately, vultures are facing many threats from human activities, such as poisoning, poaching, habitat loss, and electrocution. Their numbers are declining rapidly, and some species are endangered or critically endangered.

One man who has dedicated his life to protecting and conserving vultures is Roy Strydom, a former chairman of the Emzemvelo Wildlife Association Honorary Officers Group, a volunteer group that works with the Emzemvelo KZN Wildlife, the provincial conservation agency in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Roy Strydom initiated a vulture feeding programme in the year 2000, as part of a conservation effort to support the Cape Vulture Colony in the Drakensberg Mountains, near his home in Bergview Estate.

The vulture feeding programme, also known as the vulture restaurant, provides a safe and regular source of food for the vultures and other wildlife. Roy Strydom collects animal carcasses from local farmers and butchers and places them on a designated site, where the vultures can feed without being disturbed by humans or predators. The site is also monitored by cameras and researchers, who collect data on the vulture population, behaviour, and health.

Roy Strydom’s passion for vultures and conservation has made a positive impact on the survival of these birds. Since he started the programme, he has seen an increase in the number of vultures visiting the site, as well as the diversity of species. He has recorded sightings of Cape Vultures, and even the rare and beautiful Bearded Vultures. He has also witnessed the affectionate behaviour of the vulture pairs, who nestle close to each other after feeding.

Roy Strydom’s love for vultures and conservation is an inspiration for anyone who cares about nature and wildlife. He shows us that even the most misunderstood and maligned creatures can have a loving side, and that we can all make a difference by taking action to protect them. As he says in his own words:

“It stands to reason that our primary focus is the feeding of the vultures – however on any feeding site, as in a death in the wild, you will find this occurrence. It is not new, and has been the case since the year 2000. The fact that I have been putting cameras out at night has just given us further proof of the biodiversity and animals living here.”1

As part of World Vulture awareness day on Sunday 3rd September,  Roy counted  582 cape vultures and 1 adult and 1 juvenile bearded vultures (highly endangered). However they don’t usually feed at the same time as the Cape vultures, as their diet consists of bones and 90% bone marrow.

There were 170 more Cape Vultures counted this year than last year)