Monday, August 22, 2011
International Vulture Awareness Day
Vultures have traditionally had a contentious relationship with humans. They preform a valuable service, cleaning up things we definitely don't want to, and yet they have unfairly been painted as harbingers of death in many cultures. Yes, they eat dead things. But then again, so do our pets. Most of us do too, for that matter. The difference is that vultures haven't killed what they eat. But they do eat it in a rather ostentatious manner.
Why should you care about vultures? For one thing, they're an important part of most ecosystems. In the U.S., during the 50s and 60s, turkey vultures were poisoned and shot. Their numbers plummeted. Why? because people assumed that they spread diseases and bad luck. Turns out, the complete opposite was true. Thankfully, we now have more enlightened policies about vultures in this country, and their numbers have rebounded.
That doesn't mean that vultures are out of the woods though. Around the world they are under threat from pesticides, wind turbines, hunting, and just plain ignorance. It's a sad situation, and one that gets very little press. Most people know that tigers are in trouble, but how many know that Egyptian vultures could be gone within the decade? And yet, a man in Spain is currently being prosecuted for deliberately poisoning one. Would he have done that if he knew how rare and valuable they are?
Want to help vultures? You can visit the International Vulture Awareness page to find a list of participating zoos and organizations where you can learn more and even meet a vulture up close. The Audubon Society of Portland, for example, will be hosting a meet and greet with Ruby the turkey vulture. You can also spread the word: vultures are nothing to be afraid of! Sure, they have some nasty habits, but what species doesn't? Certainly humans have a few of their own.