Monday, September 07, 2020

value your vultures

Vultures are still suffering from image problems in many cultures, due to their association with death and decay. We should really appreciate them a lot more, however, as their removal of carcasses is an extremely important and valuable ecosystem service. India has lost large parts of its vulture population in recent decades and is already feeling the consequences which include opportunistic mammalian scavengers such as rats and feral dogs spreading diseases that also affect humans, such rabies and the plague. And now Africa is at risk of a similar decline in vulture populations, which could have even worse effects there.

In my latest feature I have looked at the causes and effects of vulture declines around the world, and also marvelled at the different cultural associations we have with various species. The Andean condor, for instance, is also a vulture but doesn't appear to have the same image problem as the other species.

The feature is out now:

Hard times for ecosystem cleaners

Current Biology Volume 30, Issue 17, 7 September 2020, Pages R963-R966

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access again one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Vultures are having a hard time in the Lucky Luke comics, too - targeted by jokes if not by bullets ...

If reading the feature is too much work, there is a video about vulture conservation here.

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