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NAMIBIAN WILDLIFE LEAD (Pb) POISONING WORKING GROUP
The Namibian Wildlife Lead (Pb) Poisoning Working Group (NWLPWG) was established in 2021 and comprises individuals and organisations that work alongside the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism (MEFT) to address the issue of lead toxicity in scavengers, and associated issues, in Namibia.
The issue of lead (Pb) toxicity in scavengers, particularly vultures, has been of concern for many years. The main source of lead is from ammunition, in the body or body parts of animals left in the veld after hunting, harvesting, culling or predator control. The people involved are thus hunters, farmers, harvesting and culling teams and predator control clubs and specialists. Hunting is coming under greater international pressure, so the sector needs to be seen to be progressive, professional and having high environmental standards. There is now a large body of evidence on the levels and impact of lead in scavengers – particularly vultures and condors – published in the international scientific literature, as well as good information on lead in vultures in Southern Africa. In addition, more manufacturers are now providing a wide range of lead-free ammunition, including in Southern Africa.
The NWLPWG aims to identify options for how Namibia could address the issue, and to explore the potential for regional collaboration. Most vulture species cover huge areas as they search for food. Individual vultures which have been fitted with GPS backpacks in Namibia have been recorded covering five other countries – Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The same has been found for vultures fitted with GPS backpacks in neighbouring countries. Vulture populations are thus not national, but regional and the problem of lead poisoning is thus also a regional one.