FALCONERS Daisy Bessant and Shannen McAleer are taking on a mountainous challenge to raise money for a project aimed at saving vultures from poachers.

Daisy, 18, and 23-year-old Shannen work at Gauntlet Birds of Prey Eagle and Vulture Park in Knutsford, which has more than 20 vultures.

Daisy and Shannen are planning to travel to South Africa in February to volunteer at the VulPro Vulture rehabilitation centre.

The centre aims to release healthy birds back into the wild and provide a safe haven for those unable to be released.

Gauntlet set up the Gauntlet Conservation Trust in 2014, and supports a number of conservation projects, including VulPro.

Daisy is the daughter of Gauntlet owner Graham Bessant, who is in South Africa on his 14th trip for an African White Backed Vulture monitoring programme.

White Backed and Hooded Vultures are in danger from poachers, who lace with poison carcasses which are fed on by the birds because circling vultures alert Rangers to poaching.

Daisy and Shannen plan to climb Mount Snowdon in north Wales on November 12 to raise £1,500 to buy equipment designed to help treat poisoned vultures.

Knutsford Guardian:

Daisy and Shannen with a Griffon Vulture

They have set up a justgiving page -  justgiving.com/fundraising/fundthevulture - to seek donations, and are selling wristbands at the centre in Knutsford to boost the total.

“After the poachers take the ivory or horn from the elephants or rhino they have killed they lace the carcasses with cyanide to kill the vultures which feed on the carcasses,” said Daisy.

Knutsford Guardian:

“The cyanide kills the birds within 24 hours, and there can 600 vultures on one carcass.

“Vultures are vital in cleaning up carcasses and helping other animals to find food.

“We have lost 95 per cent of the vulture population of Africa, and once they have gone the whole ecosystem of Africa is going to be badly affected.”

Knutsford Guardian:

Graham Bessant with a young wild African White Backed Vulture chick. African White Backed Vultures are endangered due to poisoning, poaching and powerline collisions

During their trip Daisy and Shannen will be involved in a range of tasks, including helping to take blood from vultures, feeding and monitoring the birds and doing health checks on injured birds.

To enable the public to see the work they will be doing they will be producing a daily video diary.

Daisy added: “People have a negative image of vultures, but once they see the ones we have at Gauntlet and learn more about them they completely change their mind and want to help.

“The aim of the trip to South Africa is to show people what’s going on and to understand how bad the situation is getting.”

To contact Gauntlet call 01565 754419 or visit gauntlet.info