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International Vulture Awareness Day

Updated on August 14, 2017
Peter Dickinson profile image

Peter earns his living as an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer. Currently working as Curator of Penguins in Dubai.

International Vulture Awareness Day

The International Vulture Awareness Day takes place each and every year in September (on the 3rd in 2017). The day is all about promoting an awareness of the importance of vultures and the vital niche role they play in the web of life.

Vultures have had a rough time of it in recent years. There was a massive die off in the vultures of India and elsewhere as they were poisoned by veterinary medicines used in the treatment of cattle. The drug 'diclofenac' was used to treat inflammation in cows but a vulture eating a cow which had been treated with the drug would usually die within 24 hours.

Only now through a combination of tighter controls, protection and captive breeding has a light begun to appear at the end of the tunnel. Vultures are important in India not just for cleaning up dead animals but within the religious practices of the Parsis who place their dead on the 'Towers of Silence' which are then visited by vultures.

Elsewhere in the world vultures are shot and killed by the ignorant. A new threat to arise is the wind turbines used to generate electricity. Vultures are being hit and killed by the huge blades. Whereas some of these deaths have been reported and scientifically recorded, many more are suspected to have gone unreported. It is suspected that the wind turbines in Spain will lead to the extinction of the locally occurring Egyptian Vultures. The same problem exists wherever the turbines are and vultures occur. Not just vultures but eagles and other birds too. There is a conspiracy of silence.

What is your zoo doing?

What is your zoo doing? Each and every zoo that holds vultures, every falconry centre everywhere needs to be promoting International Vulture Awareness Day. Even if you don't have vultures you should be getting the message out about the threats this very important group of birds is under.

King Vulture


What is a Vulture?

A vulture is a large 'Bird of Prey' belonging to the families either Cathartidae or Accipitridae. Not unlike an eagle in appearance it is characterised by having a featherless neck and head. The vultures do not hunt and kill their food but feed upon carrion.

Although all vultures have their specialist niche the most unusual is probably the Palm Nut Vulture Gypohierax  angolensis which, although it will take carrion feeds mainly on plant matter. 

Probably the most attractive of all the vultures is the King Vulture, Sarcoramphus papa.

Wind Turbines and Vultures

The Cape Griffon Vulture is one of the most endangered. Huge numbers of birds have died as a result of poisoning. The poison has usually been placed to kill other species like feral dogs but the vultures die too.

They are further threatened by gamblers who believe that by smoking the brains of vultures gives them the ability to predict the future.

As with so many species pollution and habitat destruction plays a part in speeding up the extinction of some Vulture Species. There are 23 Vulture species. Very few of these could be classed as common.

  • Indian Black Vulture - Sarcogyps calvus - Critically Endangered
  • Slender-billed Vulture - Gyps tenuirostris - Critically Endangered
  • Indian Vulture - Gyps indicus - Critically Endangered
  • Egyptian Vulture - Egyptian Vulture - Endangered

Vulture Poem

                       "The time has come," the Vulture said,
                       "To talk of many things,
                        Of Accidence and Adjectives,
                        And names of Jewish kings,
                        How many notes a sackbut has,
                        And whether shawms have strings."

From: The Vulture and the Husbandman

by: Arthur Clement Hilton 1851 - 1877

What can you do?

You can make people more aware of Vultures and the threats they are facing by sending Tweets on Twitter, sending messages on Facebook. Then you should visit the International Vulture Awareness Webpage and sign up. Anyone can help and it need not cost you a penny. Get some ideas of how you can help further by seeing what others have done.

Visit your local zoo and see what they are doing. If they are doing nothing at all then ask why not. At the very least they should be making their visitors aware of the plight that Vultures are facing in the wild.

Andean Condor



Submit a Comment

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks Shaddie.

  • Shaddie profile image

    Shaddie 5 years ago from Washington state

    Vultures are fantastic creatures, thank you for this hub!

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 5 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks LetitiaFT

  • LetitiaFT profile image

    LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

    Wonderful article. Just linked to it. I visit the four European vultures in the South of France every summer (two species were introduced, one came back on its own and one is an occasional visitor). I never tire of soaring, vicariously, with them. I will keep the date in mind...

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Thank you Sun-Girl

  • Sun-Girl profile image

    Sun-Girl 6 years ago from Nigeria

    Another funny article peter, which am glad to come across, as i will look forward for your hubs.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    feenix - the vultures play such a major part in some Asian religions...and in South America well as their niche in the natural order of things. Thanks for reading.

  • feenix profile image

    feenix 6 years ago

    Peter, this is a terrific hub, especially for me because I am fascinated with all types of animal life. Also, I grew up in southern California and vultures and buzzards are quite common in that area of the U.S. And vultures certainly do hold a very important place in the "natural order of things".

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Thanks Alastar - Happily people have become more aware of the problems facing vultures today. There is now legislation in some countries with regards to the substances in the animal carcases. The wind turbines are a different matter. As countries strive to become 'green' then they are overlooking the kills made by these massive turbines. There really does seem to be a conspiracy of silence coupled with a denial.

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

    Man Peter, this a superior hub in every way. Thank you for bringing this species to the fore in the way you have. Vultures are often looked down on because of their place in nature and some looking rather unpleasant. That King vulture is beautifully marked. Fortunately their protected in many places but what can be done about the substances in the animal carcasses they clean up and the wind turbines? The Palm nut species was a delightful discovery. Again, thanks so very much Peter.

  • Peter Dickinson profile image

    Peter Dickinson 6 years ago from South East Asia

    Thank you Eiddwen. They are a much misunderstood group of birds but number amongst my favourites.

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    A great hub and I must admit that I knew only the bare minimum on these birds..

    I hadn't realised that there is so many vibrant colours on some of them.

    Thank you for sharing this one with us because I for one have learnt a great deal.

    Take care