International Vulture Awareness Day
International Vulture Awareness Day
The International Vulture Awareness Day takes place each and every year in September (on the 3rd in 2016). 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.
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
"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.