Quantcast
Mar 212012
 

Vulture.

What is your initial reaction when you hear that word? Only a face a mother could love? I guess they aren’t the most attractive birds to most, but to me they’re something else. They’re intelligent, charismatic and have some of the most intriguing, if unpleasant adaptations. Whether it be Old World or New World Vultures they all enthrall me with they’re methods of survival. Many are familiar with the characteristics of Vultures, even young children thanks to a well loved film, the Jungle Book; bald heads and large hooked beaks. Most though, aren’t familiar with some of the traits I marvel at, nor are they familiar with the current and worsening plight of Vultures across Europe, Africa and the far East.

Vultures are scavengers and they play a large part in cleaning up the environment they live in. Finding a suitable carcass appears to be easy work, by soaring on large, broad wings and making use of warm air thermals Vultures rise to dizzying heights and are able to survey much land with well developed eyesight. It is also thought that some Vultures have a well developed sense of smell in comparison to other Raptors, the American Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) being one whose sense of smell is strongest.

Once they’ve found a carcass, Vultures do not hesitate to get stuck in; here the bald head comes into play. To prevent blood and bacteria remaining on feathers which should cover the head, vultures do not have any. In the heat of the sun, any bacteria which are present are ‘burnt’ away. Similarly, protection of the feet is managed with excrement, which is deliberately directed down the legs. This successfully removes any bacteria, and as it evaporates acts as a sunscreen and coolant. Not very nice, but very effective.

Unfortunately, these well adapted birds were not prepared for human intervention and the contamination of their food source with NSAIDS. Across much of the Old World Vultures range (Europe, Africa and Asia) the use of veterinary drugs have demolished the once booming populations. Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drugs became freely available for farmers to purchase and treat their cattle with. Sadly, these drugs cause kidney failure in Vultures, leaving three Asian species Critically Endangered. The Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris), the Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus) and the White Rumped Vulture (Gyps benegalensis) demonstrate the fastest declines in bird species, with drops of 95% since 1990.

In addition, the Vultures have to contend with the development of many areas and the erection of power lines, deliberate poisoning and lack of understanding from local people. Despite conservation efforts, much of the general public remain completely unaware of the plight of our flying cleaners. NSAIDS have been banned but are shamefully still used and continue to ransack the remaining vulture numbers.

We need to be aware of what is going on and must develop new and innovative ways of replenishing our Vulture numbers. They may be ugly too many, but they are truly interesting. Not many species can empty their stomachs on demand to deter a predator, allowing the final pickings of a carcass.

 

Courtesy and Copyright Craig Shaw

Rachel Ann French

Currently living an working on the Isle of Mull, Scotland as Mull Eagle Watch ranger. Spend most days educating the public about our eagles and wildlife and helping them see the real thing. Also work with children and schools. BSc Hons Animal Conservation. Passionate about wildlife, conservation, rewilding and an advocate in letting our children have a free-range childhood.


Leave a Comment

Top-Viewed Posts Last 30 Days

  1. » POLL: Should the ban on fox hunting be relaxed in the UK? [10666 Views]
  2. POLL: Should the slaughter of wolves in British Columbia be banned? » [2503 Views]
  3. POLL: Should bear hunting be banned in the US? » [755 Views]
  4. » POLL: Should the fox-hunting laws in the UK be relaxed? [498 Views]
  5. POLL: Should the Monk Parakeet be eradicated in the UK? » [483 Views]
  6. POLL: Should the wolf hunting contest in Idaho be stopped? » [450 Views]
  7. Petition: Stop Lion Canned Hunting in South Africa – Shocking Video » [415 Views]
  8. Viral Shark Video Gives Rare Look at a Feeding Frenzy » [415 Views]
  9. Viral Photo of Great White Shark Stirs Debate Over Cages, Baiting » [334 Views]
  10. U.S. Indictment Accuses South African Brothers of Trafficking Rhino Horns » [330 Views]

Top-Viewed Posts Last 12 Months

  1. » POLL: Should the ban on fox hunting be relaxed in the UK? [11027 Views]
  2. POLL: Should the Faroe Islands’ whale slaughter be allowed to continue? » [7944 Views]
  3. POLL: Should the fox-hunting laws in the UK be relaxed? » [7351 Views]
  4. POLL: Should the Dolphin Slaughter in Taiji Cove be stopped? » [5647 Views]
  5. Petition: Stop Lion Canned Hunting in South Africa – Shocking Video » [4893 Views]
  6. Komodo and its Dragons » [4700 Views]
  7. POLL: Should bear hunting be banned in the US? » [3810 Views]
  8. POLL: Should the slaughter of wolves in British Columbia be banned? » [3592 Views]
  9. Trophy Hunting in Africa – Wildlife Slaughter in Graphic Images » [3538 Views]
  10. POLL: Should the trophy hunting of giraffes be banned? » [3148 Views]