They may not be the prettiest birds in the Zoo’s Birds of Prey presentation, but vultures are an ecologically vital group of birds facing a huge range of threats. From habitat loss to poisoning, some sub-species are now classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
About twenty years ago, there were an estimated 40 million vultures in India, however, those numbers have diminished dramatically over the years. In Africa, conservationists have sounded the alarm about the increasing use of poisons in elephant poaching, which has had devastating effects on endangered vultures.
Why are vultures so important? As nature’s own clean-up crew, vultures help prevent the spread of disease and even help the economy. For example, the recent decline of these birds cost India about $1.5 billion in terms of health care!
A few years ago, animal care manager Melinda joined forces with the Hawk Conservancy Trust to travel to South Africa to assist with ringing and tagging of African white backed vultures. Ringing a bird helps to identify and observe these birds in the wild. With this field research, conservation advocates are able to study these magnificent birds including their distribution and spatial dynamics, mortality factors and the impact of different land use types on breeding, foraging and roosting behavior.
So how can you help save this species? When you visit the Zoo, your admission helps our conservation efforts both at home and around the world. The Zoo’s outreach educators also created bumper stickers with the caption “Bald is Beautiful” and an armband with the phrase, “Save the Vulture” on it. Funds raised from the sale of these bumper stickers goes to support the Asian and African Vulture Crisis with field research, community outreach and habitat protection.