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Why You Should Love Vultures Part 5: Because We’re Your Friends

Shere Khan, Bagheera, Baloo… If you’re old enough to remember the 1967 Disney version of The Jungle Book you might just also remember Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy.

Thought to be loosely based on The Beetles, the Fab Four vultures tell Mowgli,

“We’re your friends… we’re your friends… right to the bitterend”[1]

and in the original story there is a real sense of the birds being part of the circle of life. The animals and humans accept their role without fear, recognising their part in keeping nature in balance.

But what happens when a keystone species like the vulture is removed from that equation? If you’ve been following our previous news stories, you’ll have a pretty good idea. But just to recap…

Biodiversity and OneHealth

Protecting and restoring biodiversity is key to maintaining healthy ecosystems, and keeping disease in check, for the sake of all species living in a particular environment, humans included. We now know that biodiversity loss frequently increases disease transmission, and the fate of Asia’s vultures provides an example of just how easily things can become unbalanced.

Read more here.

Why You Should Love Vultures Part 1: Misunderstood until it was almost Too Late

Forget the pterodactyl, the dodo and the passenger pigeon. If you were born before 1994, you have essentially lived through the most dramatic, and arguably significant, demise of any bird species ever recorded. Until the 90s, vultures were simply taken for granted in Asia, with their numbers in the tens of millions. But over the next decade populations plummeted catastrophically. In the case of the white-rumped vulture, 99% of birds disappeared. Numbers of long-billed and slender-billed vultures fell almost as dramatically, by 97%. By 2000, all three species were Critically Endangered. But the cause of their near extinction was a mystery. It took a decade before an international team of scientists testing vulture carcasses in Pakistan identified widespread, unintentional poisoning with the NSAID diclofenac as the problem.

Read more here.

Why You Should Love Vultures Part 2: Because Nobody Does It Better

The catastrophic decline of Asia’s vultures has had widespread implications for both rural and urban ecosystems, and even impacte don human mortality rates. The speed and efficiency with which vultures clean up carcasses of dead animals is unmatched. A group of vultures can strip a cow carcass in twenty minutes, and any deadly pathogens present will be stopped in their tracks by highly acidic vulture stomach juices. With the loss of the vultures, their role was taken on by other less efficient mammalian scavengers like rats and dogs. But these animals are more likely to become carriers of disease, and to live close to humans. The impact on rates of disease like rabies, as well as attacks on humans by dogs, has been significant.

Read more here.

Why You Should Love Vultures Part 3: What Hope for Asia’s Decimated VulturePopulations?

The good news is that a consortium of 25 conservation partners, working together for well over a decade under the banner of SAVE – Save Asia’s Vultures from Extinction – and coordinated by the RSBP, have been working hard to restore vulture numbers. The approach has essentially been two fold, involving legislative action around the use of diclofenac for veterinary purposes, as well as the establishment of captive-breeding programmes, Vulture Safe Zones and tagging programmes for wild and released birds. But restoring numbers is a slow process, the tasks ahead are formidable and there is no room for complacency.

Read more here.

Why You Should Love Vultures Part 4: A Role for Wildlife Vets International

The veterinary needs for vulture conservation are changing. As efforts move away from emergency captive breeding, we need to turn our attention to safeguarding the health of vultures in the wild – both those born or reared in captivity and then released, and wild birds. WVI hopes to help with health checking of captive-bred birds, establishing a Vulture Veterinary Network of expert international and range state vets, and the education and training of future vulture vets. We would also like to facilitate pathology training and support the development of a health surveillance programme to work across allrange states, as well as address how vultures are dealing with new threats in the wild. There is much work to be done!

Read more here.

Be A Vulture Champion

We are asking all our supporters and everyone who cares about the health of the planet to be a WVI Vulture Champion and tell your family, friends and acquaintances about the campaign. For all our sakes, we need to champion these misunderstood birds who play such a vital role in keeping our ecosystems balanced and controlling disease.

As the Fab Four, Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy and Dizzy, told Mowgli, they are indeed our friends; something we all need to appreciate as we struggle to protect our planet’s biodiversity and increasingly understand the importance of the One Health concept.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWa03rUR9pA

Main picture sourced from: https://disney.fandom.com/wiki/Buzzie,_Flaps,_Ziggy,_and_Dizzy