Vultures seem to have a bad reputation in general, and it is safe to say that not many people would pick vultures as their favourite animal. However, conservationists say that the extinction of vultures has to be prevented, because they are crucial to the African ecosystem.
Other endangered species like lions, elephants, or rhinos always get the attention of the public worldwide.
BirdLife International – a global partnership that strives to conserve birds and their habitats – says that some of that attention should also be directed at the population of African vultures.
The decline of the African vultures is caused by poachers who kill the birds illegally, by vultures consuming livestock that had been previously poisoned, loss of habitat, as well as locals who may hunt the vultures for medical purposes (specifically traditional medicine).
African vultures – although not liked by many – are vital to the African ecosystem, because without them not only would the landscape be filled with putrid carcases, but the population of rats would also rise even more.
“Vultures are important. They come in, they clean up and they leave. Scavengers like rats and jackals will eat a carcass and then will go after livestock or become a pest to humans,” Ross Wanless of BirdLife South Africa, said.
It can be said that vultures are like biological recyclers, since they normally go after carcases that other species clearly avoid consuming. They hinder the spread of disease form other animals to humans.
It is unfortunate that a lot of people lack compassion towards these animals due to the way that they are portrayed in modern-day society: related to death, malevolence, and decay.
The number of West African vultures has dropped by 95 percent over the past 30 years. According to BirdLife, about 200 bearded vultures are left in South Africa.
Previously, the Asian vulture was also on the verge of extinction with a 92 to 99 percent decline in its population. Nepal, Bangladesh, and India worked together to save the Asian vulture, and in 2012 – thanks to their efforts – the population started increasing. This means that the African vulture is not a lost cause, the conservationists say.
Roger Safford, Preventing Extinctions Program Coordinator at BirdLife, said that the support for the African vultures is very much needed.
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