Why We Should Worry About Vulture Declines

The Telegraph headline: Why we should all be worried about a vulture apocalypse
The birds are synonymous with death and gluttony – but their plummeting numbers could spell serious trouble for humans

Will Brown,
18 July 2022 • 8:00am


If the lion is the king of the savannah, the vulture is the hardworking, unsung grounds keeper. A flock of vultures can wipe a dead antelope clean in about 20 minutes, stopping the carcass from turning into a toxic soup leaking into water sources. Maggots and bacteria are the only things more effective at disposing of dead meat.

The birds’ digestive systems are thought to be tough enough to stop bacterial colonies of the plague, anthrax and botulism in their tracks. Some researchers believe vultures indirectly keep rabies infections in check by depriving rats and feral dogs of bountiful food. Certain species may even help disinfect the ground near carcasses with their highly acidic excrement.

But now, many vultures and other raptor species are diving beak first into the abyss. In the 1990s, vulture populations on the Indian subcontinent plummeted by about 99 per cent. Seven out of eleven of the species found in Africa are now on the verge of extinction.




Meanwhile in South Asia, the vulture population crashed from an estimated 40m in the 1980s to roughly 19,000 in 2017 because of diclofenac – a widely used drug to treat pain and inflammation in cattle – which overloaded the birds’ kidneys after eating the carcass.

This had some surprising knock-on effects. Historically, the Parsi religious community have placed their dead on a ‘Tower of Silence’ in a plush neighbourhood in Mumbai and let swarming vultures devour their friends and relatives.

Cremations and burials are sacrilegious for Parsis, but the vultures allow the souls to reach heaven. Because there are not enough vultures to go around, high Parsi priests erected solar panels around the Tower to concentrate the sun’s rays on the bodies, speeding up the natural decomposition process.


One small bright light is the work that has been done for the last 3 1/2 decades to try and save the California Condor. The Ventura Wildlife Society has been working to snatch them from the claws of extinction.

There has been progress but it has been slow because of lead poisoning from the use of lead bullets found in the consumed carrion. The VWS is trying to mitigate the problem by suppling non-lead bullets for free.



amuseing, thanks for that link. It’s good to see some of humanity connect as a Conscious Party.

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