2015-06-19. Vulture populations plummet across Africa.

posted Jun 21, 2015, 12:05 PM by Alan Gould
By Erik Stokstad, Science. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 6. Excerpt: One of nature’s best scavengers is under serious threat in Africa, largely from poison. According to the first analysis of African vultures, populations of seven species have fallen by 80% or more over three generations. ...Despite their gloomy reputation, vultures provide valuable services. Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) have been found to remove up to 22% of the waste produced in towns along the Horn of Africa. And by picking clean the carcasses of dead animals, vultures indirectly keep the numbers of feral dogs in check; that, in turn, reduces transmission rates for diseases like rabies. ...The main threat appears to be poison. In most reported cases, vultures are the incidental victims of attempts by farmers to kill lions or hyenas by lacing carcasses with pesticides and other toxic compounds. But more and more frequently, vultures are being directly targeted by poachers who presumably don’t want park rangers to notice the birds circling over killed elephants or rhinos. ...Vultures are also killed for use in traditional medicine. Various parts are thought to bring good luck or ward off evil spirits, whereas eyes and brains are prized for clairvoyance. Vultures are eaten in some African countries, and smoked vulture meat is trafficked internationally.... http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2015/06/vulture-populations-plummet-across-africa