03 October , 2022 |

Environment

Vultures: The Underrated Heroes 𓅐

Considered as the "Undisputed King of the Carcass", Vultures are very much essential for the ecosystem. Paradoxically, these animals are on the verge of extinction, and there is no doubt we need to do something to revive them. Check out this blog to learn why they are important :)

How long has it been since you've seen a Vulture around you? If you ask me, I had never seen a Vulture in the open world (Except in the Zoo). And lately, I happened to learn that this creature is about to get extinct (Almost 50% of these species already got extinct) as these species got placed on the endangered animal list. In the beginning, I was like, does it even matter to me, but later I regretted it as I understood their importance in the eco-system.

Introduction Prominently known as the "Scavengers", Vultures have excellent eyesight and a strong smell. With this advantage, they locate the dead animals while they are soaring high over the land. Unlike birds that hunt, they have weak beaks and talons. And did you notice why the heads of Vultures are bare-skinned or bald? It is because bare skin is thought to keep the head clean when feeding on the dead (Nature is awesome, nah). They have been observed to tuck in their heads during cold and stretch their wings and heads when it's hot.

Nature of Vultures These birds are known to soar at an altitude of over 1100 meters above the ground (higher than any other animal). At these heights, they cannot see individual carcasses. But the sight of their fellow vultures guides them to the feeding. The Carron is stripped clean in hours before the rotten meat infects the water supply, and tuberculosis doesn't stand a chance at infecting the vultures. Ever wondered how they are able to consume the dead and even digest the food without getting sick in the first place? That is because these birds have evolved the lowest gastric pH in the animal kingdom. In fact, their stomachs are so acidic that they can digest most bones within 24 hours. Larger vultures can consume the deceased meat up to 3 days old. As they are not good at hunting, they can still protect themselves from predators using their acidic stomachs. Their vomit scares off most of the predators. To put it in simple words, the Vultures can clean up Natural waste around them.

Their contribution to the Eco-System Since they are only known for eating the dead, not many of us know that they even help protect the planet. The Dead animals release Methane (harmful gas) into the air, and the corpses lying near the water bodies contaminate the water, which spreads diseases like Cholera, Anthrax, Rabies and Tuberculosis. And here comes our hero, who enjoys it like a feast before the dead does any harm. So, by all means, they are protecting the planet and living beings. And what are we doing in return?

Threat of Extinction Like any other story has a villain, there is a villain who is causing harm to this magnificent animal, and it is none other than "us". We are the primary reason behind the decline in their population. In India, Diclofenac (Veterinary Drug) is used to treat cattle which is dangerous to Vultures as they consume the drug that is present in the dead cattle. Apart from this, the electricity pylons and habitat loss have majorly contributed to the decline of the population. Due to this reason, more than 95% of these species have become extinct in the Asian and African Continents.

Threat to Human Beings As nobody apart from the scavengers that consume the dead, other animals like rats and free-range dogs feed on the dead and transmit diseases to the human community. The Vulture crisis has led to an increase in diseases like Rabies, which kills roughly 20,000 people a year in India. Fortunately, some communities have realised and taken necessary steps to conserve Vultures in India.

Conclusion Through this blog, I hope I made you realise the importance of these beautiful animals are very important and why they are on the verge of extinction. Remember, our actions shall not affect any other species on the planet. Every living being on the planet must share equal rights and live together rather than causing harm or acting dominant. As with the dwindling Vulture population, taking away just one important species can undermine the entire ecosystem. Beware before anything unexpected happens!

Article by Krishna Teja Reddy

Credits - TED-Ed and Unsplash

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