YGA Journal | Article
World Vulture Day
The Ecosystem’s Detoxifiers: From Scavenger to Succumbed
Scavenge through the many incredible facts about these incredible species for International Vulture Day, from the purpose they pose for our environment and the history of challenges these species have faced.
Published September 2, 2023
Written by Haseeb Rizvi
What is International Vulture Day?
International Vulture Day is annually celebrated on the first Saturday of September each year, an occasion that sets as a global tribute to the wildlife of vultures aiming to raise awareness to the public eye regarding environmental issues that affect them. In order for people to understand the urgency of their conservation and highlighting the crucial role these species engage within their respective ecosystems.
In this present day, International Vulture Day has become a significant international occasion that is celebrated in over 100 countries. It was first observed on September 2nd, 2006 by the Birds of Prey Programme of the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England. The motive for this day is to create global events that serve as a platform for raising awareness about vultures and also provide the opportunity for people to learn about the significance of vultures within our ecosystems.
Vultures are large, hypercarnivorous birds of prey that specialise in hunting the dead carcasses of vertebrates and predators by consuming decaying flesh of once living creatures, able to detect a carcass in over a mile away with their keen eyesight and sense of smell. There are 23 species of vulture split from two families, the Old World Vultures and the New World Vultures. Old World Vultures have sixteen species that are typically found in Europe, Africa and Asia whilst New World Vultures have seven species and remain in the America.
The decline and injustice of the Vulture population
However, the vulture population is declining due to poisoning and by poaching. There are 14 species out of vulture under the threat of extinction. In Africa, there are various cultures that have superstitions about vultures, believing that vultures symbolise death and are mistaken to be a threat towards healthy livestock. These cultural superstitions had led to the endangerment of vulture species, where hunters participate in harvesting vultures with an act called “poaching”. This is done by poisoning the carcass of an animal for which a vulture will consume until it is killed by the poison.
A vulture’s body parts are then sold by merchants to be used as a valuable asset for traditional medicine and meat, with a major involvement in the witchdoctor trade. Presently, 14 out of 23 species of vulture worldwide are under threat by extinction mostly in African and Asian regions. In India, the Gyps vultures have declined by 95% due to a veterinary drug called diclofenac treated in cattle, this was fortunately banned by regional governments in 2006 which helped elevate the vulture population.
Why are vultures important for our ecosystem?
Vultures are vital in the ecosystem by cleansing the environment from the spread of harmful toxins and pathogens developed inside decaying carcusses by consuming them. Vulture’s have one of the most powerful immune systems of all vertebrates on earth, along with their stomach containing potent stomach acids that disintegrate harmful bacteria deadly to other creatures. Vultures ensure cleanliness in our environment and the ecosystem by consuming wasted animal carcusses, clearing up 70% of the carrion in their ecosystem which prevents the spread of contagious bacteria that cause diseases to other animals and humans such as cholera.
In a world where vultures become extinct, disease will be a prevalent issue amongst the ecosystem and their role may potentially be taken by the wrong hand of species. For example, as the vulture population declined in India. It led to the feral dog population to skyrocket by earning the vulture’s role of consuming large sums of animal carcusses. This caused a rabies epidemic in the country leading to the death of thousands of citizens who were attacked by the rabies-infected dogs until the drug was banned. Similarly, an animal carcass still contains the potential to spread diseases when exposed to other creatures. Especially when it is exposed to vital resources such as rivers, leading to water contamination and damage to the ecosystem.
How can you help?
We can help benefit these incredible species by spreading knowledge upon vultures and their role in our ecosystems. Social media is a powerful tool for promoting problems within our ecosystem, especially for shedding light upon crime committed against our ecosystem. You can participate in activities involving the celebration of International Vultures Day by finding programs around your area hosted by Hawk Conservancy Trust and the Birds of Prey Programme of the Endangered Wildlife Trust. As individuals, if we were to protect one species of the ecosystem, it would benefit various other species in our ecosystem as well.
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