Video: Protecting Nature’s Cleanup Crews, the Vultures

Candice Gaukel Andrews March 22, 2016 9
Worldwide, vultures are one of the most threatened groups of birds. Today, sadly, they are burdened with cultural perceptions relating to death, decay and maliciousness. ©Stefan van Bremen, flickr

Worldwide, vultures are one of the most threatened groups of birds. Today, sadly, they are burdened with cultural perceptions relating to death, decay and maliciousness. ©Stefan van Bremen, flickr

Because of many, current cultural biases around the world, vultures don’t immediately bring up in us feelings of empathy and likability. But they should.

According to BirdLife International, vultures are the bringers of life—not the takers. They clean our world and halt disease, stopping the spread of anthrax, botulism, rabies and tuberculosis. They are the sentries of our skies, directing rangers to the location of wildlife poachers. For centuries, vultures were revered for the vital role they play in our ecosystems. But now, they face persecution; they are being poisoned, hunted and exploited. In fact, some vulture populations have declined by 98 percent. In 2015, BirdLife International declared four African vulture species to be on the edge of extinction.

Poisoned baits placed by poachers and the market for vulture body parts in traditional medicines are putting at least six species of African vultures at risk of extinction. ©Video by BirdLife International

While rapid urbanization in parts of Africa and the massive growth of wind farms across the continent have worked to displace the birds and taken their share of the toll, poachers are delivering a double whammy. Some poachers target vultures for their parts, which can be sold for use in witchcraft or traditional medicines. Other poachers poison and kill them in an effort to throw off law enforcement, which uses the circling birds as a beacon for illegal activity. Taken together, poisoning and trade in traditional medicines account for 90 percent of reported vulture deaths.

Watch the short video below, published in October 2015. If it makes you feel just a bit more tolerant and understanding of a, perhaps, not-quite-so-beautiful bird that nonetheless we all need so desperately, the minute and a half you spend viewing the production will be worthwhile.

Have your feelings about vultures changed, as you learn more about them?

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,




  1. David Durieux April 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Yes, they actually are quite graceful. I’m amazed that with all the roadkill they must consume, they are almost never hit by cars.

  2. Carolyn E. Balls April 16, 2016 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Beautiful to watch riding the air thermals..

  3. Susan Sharma April 16, 2016 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Nadine K April 16, 2016 at 1:43 pm - Reply

    Very glad this was posted…..Vultures must not be lost just because they aren’t quite as cute & cuddly as other species. They are integral to the health of other species & the habitats that are their home. When will humanity ever start to comprehend that ALL wildlife is precious & must not, cannot be lost! Each is precious & vital in their unique niche in order for Nature (which humans rely on too) to properly function & thrive.

  5. R.C. Sihag April 3, 2016 at 9:04 am - Reply

    Fast decline of these birds in India has lmbalanced the natural scavenger fauna. These must be protected and conserved vigorously .

  6. Jack Daugherty March 28, 2016 at 7:00 am - Reply

    Thanks to Candice Gaukel Andrews for posting. I am a Black Eagle (vulture) fan and NO they are not buzzards.

  7. Bon (Bonnie) Flach March 28, 2016 at 6:58 am - Reply

    they serve a purpose

  8. Roy Hagen March 27, 2016 at 5:38 pm - Reply

    I was visiting Ouagadougou’s green belt back about 1981 when we came across a vulture that was near death (cause unknown) under a tree. I suggested we should put it out of its misery. The Voltaic (this is before Upper Volta was renamed Burkina Faso) with me replied that the Mossi (the largest ethnic group in Upper Volta had a saying:
    He who kills a vulture…
    will die…
    all alone…
    in the bush…
    like a dog.
    We left the vulture alone and continued on.

  9. Sherwin Start March 27, 2016 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    THESE ANIMALS should have the Mantle of FULL Federal and State Protection over them!

    They are just as important to all living life as any and ALL other Life Forms!!

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