Today is International Vulture Awareness Day. Vultures in the U.S. are doing well except for our California Condors because although they have made a comeback from near extinction they still face lead poisoning from ammunition in the carcasses they consume and from the use of DDT over four decades ago which causes their eggs to have such thin shells that they can’t be hatched.
Vultures and condors are scavengers and help to clean up the environment by consuming carrion, road kill and gut piles left from the kills of human and non-human hunters. Lead toxicity has been identified as the leading cause of death in condors in California condor reintroduction programs because they eat lead pellets on some of the carrion they consume. Non-lead based ammunition is available and I hope that one day all hunters will use ammunition that is lead free to help the condors and vultures of the world.
In Europe the use of diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory used in cattle and pigs, is highly toxic to vultures and kills them within hours after they consume carcasses contaminated with diclofenac. There are safer alternatives for that drug and Europe needs to ban diclofenac now to save their vultures.
Yes, I know many people think that vultures are ugly or have faces that only a mother could love but they fill an ecological niche as nature’s recyclers. They are great scavengers plus the world would be a far stinkier place without them.
Events to raise awareness about the vultures of the world are taking place all over the globe.