Kruger has been a haven for the scavenging raptors, habitat-specific species such as Arnot's Chat and rare migrants like the Pallid Harrier. Many globally-threatened species can be seen here, including the Saddle-billed Stork, often seen along Kruger's watercourses, but rarely seen outside the Park.
According to the Avian Demography Unit's "Important Birding Sites of South Africa", Kruger has several red data species - birds whose populations are vulnerable to extinction. By definition, they are uncommon or rare, although there may be healthy populations within Kruger because of its pristine condition. These include the Bateleur and Southern Ground-Hornbill mentioned above, as well as the Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Kori Bustard and Grey-headed Parrot.
Kruger's vast tracts of wide, open grassland have been the saving grace for South Africa's scavenging raptors, particularly for vultures and the endangered Bateleur. However, indiscriminate poisoning by farmers during the early 20th century almost drove these birds to extinction as they became victim to attempts by farmers to bait jackals, hyaenas and other livestock predators through poisoned carcasses.As recently as 100 years ago, the Bateleur was often seen as far south as the eastern Cape, where to this day it still occupies a potent place in Xhosa folk mythology.
The Avian Demography Unit believes the tide has turned and that scavenging raptors are making a come-back in southern Africa. Greater environmental awareness amongst farmers has led to more sophisticated forms of stock loss control, and the conversion of land from agriculture to game reserves has led to these large birds beginning to make a re-appearance outside Kruger.
However, many endangered species remain under threat because of their use in traditional African medicine. This is particularly true for vultures. The Vulture Study Group cautions against the perception that Kruger's vulnerable species are beyond danger, saying the prospect of extinction for some species remains real.