Cape Vultures at Melozhori

Earlier this month, we had our first confirmed sighting of a Cape Vulture at Melozhori Private Game Reserve. A vulture species endemic to Southern Africa, they are classified as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Allowing you to get to know these impressive birds, we’ve put together a blog post with interesting facts, current threats and what’s being done to conserve them.

Quick Facts

• Cape Vultures are one of the largest vultures in Southern Africa, with an impressive average length of 100cm and an average wingspan of 2.4m.

• They form part of the Accipitridae family.

• Their scientific name is Gyps coprotheres.

• They are called iNqe Yasekoloni in Zulu, Idlanga in Xhosa, Lenong in Sotho and Kransaasvoël in Afrikaans.

Cape Vultures can currently be found in Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa. They are now extinct in Swaziland.

• Much like other vultures, they often feed in large groups and live in colonies of at least 6 pairs.

• Despite forming part of large families, Cape Vultures are loyal to one partner for the duration of their lifetime.

• They can live up to 30 years of age.

• The species typically build their nests on cliff faces, in or nearby mountains.

• Females lay one egg which both parents incubate for 57 days.

• Cape Vultures’ nestling period is up to 171 days, but the youngsters are dependent on both parents for food for as much as 221 days.

Threats to Cape Vultures

The number of Cape Vultures has been slowly declining since the 1980s, when they were categorized as ‘Threatened’ on the IUCN Red List. Between the years of 1992 and 2007 the species declined by 60% in just South Africa, and the species were upgraded to ‘Vulnerable’ in 1994. In 2015, Cape Vultures were officially listed as ‘Endangered’ and it is estimated that only 9000 individuals remain. Threats to these beautiful birds includes electrocutions, collisions with energy structures, changes in land-use patterns and poisoning through the carcasses of animals they feed.

Image Credit: Flickr/Arthur Chapman

Conservation Efforts

While Cape Vultures can be found in certain protected areas, the majority of the species occur beyond their borders. Educational programmes and awareness initiatives are run by Wildlife Conflict Prevention Group (of the Endangered Wildlife Trust) and Birds of Prey Working Groups play an important role in the conservation of Cape Vultures. The team at Vulpro also work to save vultures through research, rehabilitation, education, and a vulture breeding programme. An essential part of their work is consistent interaction and communication with landowners, farmers and broader communities. What’s more, population monitoring is achieved through camera traps, GPS transmitters on released birds, monitoring breeding sites and general public recordings. To find out how you can get involved in the conservation of Cape Vultures, visit the Vulpro website today!

Image Credit: Flickr/Martin Heigan

Keep an eye on our regularly updated blog for more facts about wildlife and birdlife in the Melozhori Game Reserve. We are proudly home to a number of fascinating birds, including Yellow-billed Kites, Secretary Birds, a variety of sunbirds, Acacia Pied Barbets and Blue Cranes.

Fantastic Flora Of Melozhori

Melozhori Private Game Reserve spans 2,300 hectares consisting of glorious fynbos, renosterveld and succulent Karoo terrain. In amongst the greenery are splashes of colour that represent our abundant flower population. As some of the species are not often seen in day-to-day life, we’re here to acquaint you with a few of our favourite Western Cape flowers found at Melozhori in preparation for your visit. Introducing, Melozhori’s fantastic flora!

protea - western cape flowers

King Protea

As the national flower of South Africa, the King Protea is arguably the most notable species found at Melozhori.

This impressive flower typically develops a few thick stems that develop 6-10 big, bowl-shaped flowers as well as smaller, tubular flowers. Each large flower can reach up to an impressive 12 inches in diameter! Despite their root system, the King Protea can actually get all the water it needs from mist and fog – fortunately, given their location on the reserve, our protea population receives this fairly regularly in the early mornings.

king protea - western cape flowers

Pincushion Protea

Moving from one of the largest Protea species to smallest, the Pincushion Protea comes in several varietals – in terms of size as well as colour. These flowers are fairly common in South Africa due to the warm climate. As a low-maintenance, evergreen shrub, they are also popular in gardens.

The Pincushion Protea is one of the most easily recognised flowers worldwide thanks to their distinctive shape featuring stiff, curved stems with a slightly darker bulb on the end. Keep an eye out between June and November for their seasonal bloom.

Hyobanche Sanguinea

Introducing one of the more unusual flora species on the reserve, commonly known as Wolwekos. Don’t be deceived by its succulent-like appearance, this particular plant is actually a root holoparasitic species meaning it attaches to a host root system. These plants can create an underground structure of up to 2 metres before producing any flowers.

Their ‘flower’ consists of a bright pink/red fleshy, velvet-textured structure of around 15cm in height with white anthers that protrude from the end of each stem.

Jakkalsblom (Dimorphotheca sinuata)

Don’t you love daisies? If the answer is yes, you’re in for a treat! More commonly known as the African daisy or Namaqualand daisy, these fabulous flowers typically appear as carpets of vivid orange.

The flower family, Asteraceae, is one of the largest flowering plant families in the world and are recognised by their classic ‘daisy-like’ look. We are fortunate enough to have a variety of colours on the reserve including yellow, red, and orange. These carpets are often intertwined with other species which pop up in pink, purple and blue, making for quite a contrast.

Jakkalsblom - western cape flowers

White Heath (Erica peziza)

Although technically a member of the fynbos family, it may not be immediately evident due to the snowy white flowers that appear all over the bush. On first glance, White Heath looks like it has cotton wool balls all over the plant. Upon closer inspection, you can see each cluster is made up of tiny, bell-shaped flowers with a slightly fluffy texture.

The species is endemic to the Western Cape and is predominantly found in the hilly areas of Melozhori Private Nature Reserve.

It’s not too late to visit us at Melozhori Private Game Reserve and see all of these stunning Western Cape flower species for yourself. If you miss this flower season, don’t worry, there is always some form of flora to enjoy. To join us for a well-deserved getaway in the Western Cape, simply email info@melozhori.co.za and a member of our team will be in touch. Alternatively, visit our website for further information.