Four Elements supports the Bearded Vulture Project!

The Bearded Vulture is dying out in Southern Africa. One day, all we will have are photographs to remind us of the amazing creatures that once flew in our skies. Regrets and the further erosion of our environment is highly unnecessary. There are less than 100 bearded vulture nesting pairs left.

The Ezemvelo Bearded Vulture Project commenced in 2000 to ensure the well-being and conservation of bearded vultures in Southern Africa by tracking these beautiful birds and educating the general public about the importance of their role in biodiversity and the environment.

In 2009, when Olivia Taylor was in Grade 6 she became concerned about the plight of the bearded vulture. After initially meeting Ian Rushworth, she committed herself to raising funding for the Project. Working closely with Sonja Krueger, Olivia's passion and effort has helped raise in excess of US$10 000 so far from equally committed donors.

What the Bearded Vulture Project is trying to do

We need to understand bearded vultures better so we are tracking their movements to see where and how they need help and if we are being successful in their conservation.

We need to de-bunk some myths that they are a threat to farmers, or that their body parts can be used for "muthi" - we can help educate the communities in which the vultures live.


My objective is to assist with the study and preservation of the Bearded Vulture population in Southern Africa. I hope to do this by raising funds for further studies by scientists from Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, fitting tracking units to vultures and by placing nestcams in strategic places to ensure the safety of their fledglings.

There are estimated to be only 100 pairs of Beaded Vultures remaining in Southern Africa putting them on the endangered species list. They fulfill a very valuable role in the ecosystem and environment as well being incredibly beatiful and graceful creatures.


Bearded Vultures in the Maluti-Drakensberg Mountains

The Bearded Vulture is classified as “Endangered” in southern Africa due to a continuous decline in its numbers and susceptibility to several threats in Lesotho and South Africa. Within the past 30 years the Bearded Vulture population has suffered a 30% decline in its breeding range and has lost a third of its breeding pairs. There are less than 500 Bearded Vulture left in southern Africa

The Maluti-Drakenserg Vulture Project was initiated in 2000, with the initial aim being to monitor nest sites in order to determine population trends. The project is now coordinated by the Bearded Vulture Task Force of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Birds of Prey Programme. The project is being expanded from purely monitoring activities to include the implementation of various actions aimed at mitigating threats to the species. The project has a group of enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers who monitor the Bearded Vulture throughout its range in Lesotho and South Africa.

Maluti-Drakensberg Vulture Project Activities

The overall goal of the Maluti-Drakensberg Vulture Project is to ensure collaboration between Lesotho and South Africa through the Maluti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Project in implementing the actions identified in the Bearded Vulture Conservation Action Plan. Successful implementation of the actions will prevent further declines in the numbers and range of the Bearded Vulture.

Intensive monitoring is ongoing to record active nests and determine breeding success. Regular monitoring at feeding sites throughout the species’ range provides information on population, age, structure and habitat use.

In addition, 17 Bearded Vultures have been fitted with satellite transmitters to obtain more information on their movement patterns and causes of mortality. We are currently tracking the following birds;

  • Olivia, Ikloba, Inkosi Yeentaka and Zakhumi- juvenile females
  • Sphinx and Carmella- adult females
  • Springbok- adult male
  • Lehlwa and Aspen- juvenile males
  • Wandervogel- fledgling.

The project’s activities require extensive education and awareness programmes which together with a concerted effort to address the threats to the species will go a long way to ensuring their long-term survival. 


How Bearded Vultures became a part of my life

Bearded vultures were first introduced to me when I went on a trip with a close friend of mine to Eshowe when I was 11 (I am now 15). We stayed in a B&B that was owned by Hugh Chittenden and his wife and we went birding in the surrounding areas. On our last day Hugh, who is one of South Africa’s leading ornithologists and authors, spoke to me about his recent visit up to Giant’s Castle hide and how worthwhile it had been. Soon after hearing this I dragged my dad to the very same hide. We were unsuccessful even after hours of patient waiting ... I was determined to see this elusive bird and not having seen one on my first trip had only proven to me how endangered they are.

A few months later I returned with the rest of my family to be disappointed once again. During these two visits I was lucky enough to meet a man sharing my same passion, Ian Rushworth, an Ecological Advisor at KZN Ezemvelo Wildlife. He told me all about a conservation project that was to ensure the wellbeing of these birds. I was so excited to hear this and immediately asked what I could do to help ... I don’t think that either of us imagined that just two years on I would have raised US$10 000 for this cause.

After some discussion Ian told me that it would cost R15 000 each year to track just one bird, and that was when I realised it would take a little more effort than selling cupcakes.

On the way back from meeting Ian, I told my dad how disappointed I was that I wouldn’t be able to help or have little impact on the future of these birds. He said to me that if I was passionate enough and willing to put in the effort I'd surprise myself with the amount I could do.

After exchanging a few emails with Ian he put me in contact with Sonja Kruger another colleague of his at Ezemvelo. I told her my ideas and she helped provide me with some information that I was going to need to put my plan into action. The plan was that I would prepare a presentation on why I was passionate about helping the bearded vultures and present it to some of my dads’ friends in business and I would ask them for financial support.

At first I was very apprehensive and the whole idea of speaking in front of many powerful people like CEO’s and CFO’s of big corporates in my home town of Durban seemed very ominous – I was often scared I would not only be turned away but laughed at. But as it turned out each meeting I gained in confidence and even when I was turned away I managed to get something out of it, whether it was verbal support or new ideas. I was always told to keep pursuing my goal – even when I failed to raise funding, I was still raising awareness.


SafariKZN Art

Melanie Henson is an artist based in Northamptonshire, England. She is originally from the Midlands of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, but has lived in the UK since 1994. Melanie is also the wife of Mark and brother of Tristan, co-owners of

Her inspirations come from having grown up in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, surrounded by big scenery, abundant plant life and animals both wild and domestic. Having achieved a diploma in graphic design at Port Elizabeth University she then began to develop an interest and passion for botanical art. Melanie enjoys the precision and detail required in this form of art to portray her subjects. In 2008 she was invited by the Royal Horticultural Society to exhibit her work in London. Her collection of highly detailed watercolour paintings was awarded a silver medal.

Melanie not only works in watercolours but also in coloured pencil and graphite. On this page you will see examples of a very small amount of her work to date.

Melanie has offered her services in an effort to raise much needed funds for the Bearded Vulture.


Print Details:

Limited Edition of 100 prints, each one individually numbered and signed by the artist. To secure your Limited Edition print you can order in advance of the launch date which will be June 21st 2012. Your print will be dispatched after this date.

Print is supplied un-mounted and un-framed.
Print size: 420x 594mm including a border to allow for framing.

Postage and Packing Information:

Shipping cost of £10.00 GBP is to anywhere in the world.

Items are despatched from the UK.

Signature is required upon delivery so please ensure there is someone available to sign. A business address is ideal.

When buying more than one print in one transaction all prints will be sent to one address for one postage price. If separate addresses are required then postage will be charged for each individual address.

In case of queries please contact:

Olivia the Bearded Vulture

Ezemvelo kindly named a bearded vulture after me. She was a juvenile bird that was tagged in 2009. I had hoped to see her one day. The photo below is of her.


In May 2012 Olivia was found dead in the Lesotho mountains after suspected poisoning. This was a massive blow for me because this is what I had been trying so hard to prevent. It taught me the reality of conservation - that even after countless months of work, things can still go horribly wrong...


Read more on the link below...

Olivia the Bearded Vultures death May 2012.pdf Olivia the Bearded Vultures death May 2012.pdf
Size : 332.732 Kb
Type : pdf

Ezemvelo have been wonderfully supportive and invited me to join them during some of the vulture tagging activities, which was a great experience.

There are many ways you can help whether through donations or sharing your ideas on the facebook page. Spreading awareness and stripping away misunderstanding is always helpful.

Please could you like the facebook page and show your support!

Link to Bearded Vulture Project website.