Mission: Zurich Kalahari Raptor Project
Date: 24 August 2008
Requesting organisation: Zurich Kalahari Raptor Project

Location: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape
Pilot: Barry de Groot

This is the African White-backed Vulture

We have included here some extracts from the detailed account by Abri Maritz of the Zurich Kalahari Raptor Project, describing the mission to survey raptors in the Kgalagadi flown by Barry de Groot.

“At 15h20 on the Sunday afternoon of the 24th of August 2008 the blue and white Cessna 172, registration number ZU-AFP, with veteran Springbok pilot Barry de Groot at the controls, touched down on the tarmac runway of the Upington airport. Barry had flown solo from the lush green of Kwazulu Natal to the tawny brown of the semi-desert Kalahari to provide assistance from The Bateleurs to the Zurich Kalahari Raptor Project in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KGNP).

Our objectives were to find and plot, as much as possible, the active vulture and eagle nests in the KGNP and in inaccessible areas of the Kalahari region, for future inclusion into the national vulture ringing and wing-tagging program.

The target species were: Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius), African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus), Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus), Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus), Tawny Eagle (Aguila rapax), Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) and Black-chested Snake Eagle (Circaetus gallicus).

The survey was conducted, mostly, along stretches of the following rivers:  the Molopo River, the Southern Nosob River, the Auob River, the Kuruman River – and the adjacent dune veld.  We also surveyed the inaccessible high ridge and kloofs of the Korana and Langberg ranges, and checked on real and potential breeding sites in the Scheurweberg and Kameelpoort ranges. For security reasons the location of the nests as plotted with a GPS will not be published.

We were all a little sad when the survey was all over. We will miss the vast open dune veldt, dotted with salt pans, the snake-like windings of the fossilised rivers, and the raptors flying past.  But most of all we will miss the hours spent in friendship. Thanks to The Bateleurs for their contribution, input and the opportunity to expand our knowledge, especially pilot Barry de Groot who contributed his time, aeroplane and flying skills.”