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A brief review of the legal protection of vultures in South Africa

Andrew C. Blackmore


Vulture numbers are globally in a decline and many species are considered as either endangered or critically endangered. The same applies to vultures in South Africa, raising concerns about the long-term persistence of these ecologically important birds in this country. The government is obliged to exercise its fiducial duties to bring into force legislation and exercise multilateral environmental agreements that provide for the protection of vultures. Despite vultures’ importance and the paramount need to conserve them, there has been little critical review on the relevance and content of laws protecting vultures. We evaluated domestic and international legislation that provides for the protection of vultures in South Africa. These legal provisions were distributed across an array of biodiversity and non-biodiversity orientated statutes that are generally non-specific in nature, being embedded in general provisions that could be interpreted in a manner that provides for the protection of the country’s vultures. These legal provisions are also fragmented, making their enforcement difficult. Laws that are most geared towards protecting vultures in South Africa are environmental laws at provincial scales. For vultures to enjoy the highest degree of protection under these provincial laws, all species of vultures that occur in South Africa must be elevated to ‘Specially Protected’ status.

Keywords: environmental law, multilateral environmental agreements

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-947X
print ISSN: 0030-6525