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International Vulture Day

September 5, 2020

Vultures have been in venerated as well feared in legends and old stories. Sadly, people see them as "ugly", "dirty" and "repulsive" birds, due to their habit of eating animal carcasses and organic garbage.

In reality, these birds of prey are natural scavengers and nature's garbage collectors. In areas where there are no vultures, animal carcasses take 3 - 4 times longer to decompose, which spread diseases in domestic and wild animals as well humans.

The Old World vultures have 16 species in 9 genera. The New World vultures have 7 species, including the famous Andean condor.

Vulture stomach acid is exceptionally corrosive (pH=1.0), allowing them to safely digest putrid carcasses infected with anthrax bacteria, hog cholera and bothulin toxin that would be lethal to other scavengers and remove these bacteria from the environment.

Their main danger are humans. A recent study in 2016, reported that "of the 22 vulture species, nine are critically endangered, three are endangered, four are near threatened, and six are least concern".

In many parts of the world they are used as target practice. In Asia the drug Diclofenac in animal carcasses has caused a dramatic decline in vultures. In Africa traditional medicine and bushmeat trade on raptors is decimating these magnificent birds. In June 2019, poachers’ poison killed 530 endangered vultures in Botswana. As circling vultures attract the attention of the poachers illicit elephant hunts, the poachers poisoned 3 elephants to evade detection of rangers in the area.

Given the fact that it is currently vulture breeding season, many of the deceased were new parents; now, they leave behind orphaned youngsters ill-equipped to survive on their own.

In 2013, some 400 to 600 vultures died after dining on a poisoned carcass in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, and between 2012 and 2014, researchers catalogued 2,044 poaching-related vulture deaths in seven African countries—it is the first to be widely reported in lieu of Botswana’s recent decision to lift its 5 years suspension of elephant hunting.

Vultures need our protection and respect. Help spread the word by sharing this post.

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