Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vultures are People too!

I know I have not posted in over four months. I have been on a self-imposed hiatus for the usual reasons; busy. However, the recent onslaught of articles on my Facebook newsfeed about Vultures dying all over the world has compelled me to come out of hiding. If any of you follow my blog or know me, gather I am a “just the scientific facts ma’am” kind of writer but this blog is more emotional with a twist of pleading for global change.

In India, Pakistan and Nepal, by 2006 the vulture population had declined 99%, (yep, you read that correctly). Nearly all the vultures had disappeared due to a veterinary drug called diclofenac. Because of the cultural importance of cattle in this region, aging cattle were given this anti-inflammatory drug to relieve pain. When these cattle died, the carcasses were contaminated with the drug. Vultures began to disappear rapidly. It took almost two decades for researchers to discover that the contaminated carcasses vultures were feeding were killing them by kidney failure; a slow, agonizing death. In 2006, the governments of India, Pakistan and Nepal banned the use of diclofenac. The recovery of vultures is now in full intensity and showing signs of recovery (Balmford 2013). Please see, http://www.peregrinefund.org/projects/asian-vulture-crisis and http://www.save-vultures.org/, to see what is being done for Asian Vultures.

So all is good? Nope, in March 2013, the Spanish government made diclofenac available on the European market. Please see this website to support the ban in Europe and keep updated on the fight, http://www.4vultures.org/our-work/campaigning-to-ban-diclofenac-in-europe/

Diclofenac is not the only threat facing vultures. In Africa, vultures are declining for the same reasons, such as the rhino and elephant, medicinal purposes. Poachers are poisoning, indiscriminately, carcasses in order to collect the dead vultures to sell on the black market. Vulture brains and skulls are believed to provide psychic powers and intelligence (Dimitrova June 24, 2014; Pfeiffer et al. Spring 2014). Africa’s vultures are at risk of suffering the same fate as their Asian counterparts. Go to, http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0624-dimitrova-vulture-bird-market.html, to read the full article.

Vultures are charismatic and intelligent birds as well as play an important role in ecosystems and cultures globally. These birds are often deemed disgusting and do suffer from an image problem (Ravindran 2013); however, vultures are really cool birds! I have known a few vultures in my life and these characters have charmed the average visitor as well as the royalty of Great Britain. So, my plea is wherever you are in the world, do your part to help vultures! Give your time and money to organizations that are fighting for vultures or learn what you can do, as an individual, not to add to the decline of these wonderful birds.

"Delectable" entertains herself at the International Centre for Birds of Prey (www.icbp.org) by handing her feathers to visitors in order to trick them to put their fingers through the wire of her aviary. 

Literature Cited

Silent Killer

An increasing number of raptors are exposed and dying from rodenticides, commonly called “rat poison”. Unsuspecting people that wish to con...