Why vultures can eat carrion


This video is called Feeding a Vulture – Vultures: Beauty in the Beast – Natural World – BBC Two.

From Wildlife Extra:

A super-gut allows vultures to eat disgusting carcasses

Vultures are able to eat rotting carcasses covered in bacteria that could kill other creatures because their super-digestive tract is able to kill, or tolerate, dangerous bacteria like Clostridia, Fuso- and Anthrax-bacteria without ill-effects, a new study has found.

Co-author Michael Roggenbuck from University of Copenhagen explains: “Our results show there has been strong adaptation in vultures when it comes to dealing with the toxic bacteria they digest. On one hand vultures have developed an extremely tough digestive system, which simply acts to destroy the majority of the dangerous bacteria they ingest.

“On the other hand, vultures also appear to have developed a tolerance towards some of the deadly bacteria — species that would kill other animals actively seem to flourish in the vulture lower intestine.”

The scientists investigated the DNA of bacteria living on the face and gut of 50 turkey and black vultures from the USA and found the facial skin of vultures contained DNA from 528 different types of micro-organisms, whereas DNA from only 76 types of micro-organisms were found in the gut, meaning a staggering 452 have been got rid of along the way.

“Apparently something radical happens to the bacteria ingested during passage through their digestive system,” says fellow co-author Lars Hestbjerg Hansen from Aarhus University in Denmark.

Gary Graves of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History observed: “The avian microbiome is terra incognita but it is not unreasonable to suppose that the relationship between birds and their microbes has been as important in avian evolution as the development of powered flight and song.”

See also here.

Egyptian vultures, other birds counted in Turkey


This video says about itself:

Jackal vs. Ostrich Eggs vs. [Egyptian] Vulture

A three pound ostrich egg is a tough meal to crack – unless you’re a tool-using vulture with just the right technique.

From BirdLife:

First full migration census in southern Turkey of Egyptian Vulture and other raptors

By Alessia Calderalo, Fri, 14/11/2014 – 12:10

With its yellow beak and its beautiful white plumage, the Egyptian Vulture was revered in Ancient Egypt as a symbol of parental care. Sadly, this majestic bird is one of those many endangered species that year after year face several threats causing their decline.

Turkey is one of the few countries in the world that has a large breeding population of Egyptian Vultures, estimated at 1,000 – 3,000 pairs. Doğa Derneği, BirdLife Partner in the country, is aware of its responsibility in the protection of the species and has initiated research to assess its conservation status in Turkey. Because monitoring population size of Egyptian Vultures in Turkey is very difficult as the breeding range is large and finding all the occupied territories is labour intensive, a team led by Doğa Derneği and BirdLife British Partner RSPB implemented an alternative approach and conducted the first full migration census in southern Turkey.

From 16th August to 16th October 2014, the team was located at a migratory bottleneck near the Gulf of Iskenderun to count migrating Egyptian Vultures and other migrating raptors. The project, partly funded by the Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME), showed that 130.347 raptors migrated over the area, including 47.594 Lesser Spotted Eagles, which is more than 95% of the currently assumed world population.

The study conducted this year is a huge step forward for Turkey’s ornithologists and bird lovers, since it has provided valuable baseline data that can be compared in the future to infer population changes of Egyptian Vultures and other raptors. However, for this study to be truly effective in the future, the migration monitoring needs to be carried out for at least ten years. If implemented annually, the census will provide robust information to understand the trends of many species and thus serve to design effective conservation measures based on scientific evidence.

For more information, please contact Engin Yilmaz, General Manager at Doğa Derneği.

Griffon and bearded vultures in Spain


This video is about Manuel’s vulture restaurant in Santa Cilia, Spain.

After 3 November, 4 November 2014 in Aragon in Spain.

We went to the Sierra de Guara, the mountains south of the highest Pyrenees summits. It is a beautiful area; flowers like edelweiss grow there.

Sierra de Guara sign, 4 November 2014

All photos on this blog post are cellphone photos.

We went to see a vulture restaurant on a mountain above Santa Cilia village which has been going for decades.

On our way to Santa Cilia, we passed a hunting estate. We could see red deer, fallow deer and mouflons.

Santa Cilia village, 4 November 2014

In Santa Cilia there are beautiful old houses.

The vulture restaurant above the village has been organized for thirty years by Manuel; from the Amigos del buitre, friends of the vultures, organisation. A young woman, responsible for the organisation’s museum in Santa Cilia, helps him today.

The organisation has started a restaurant for vultures in Gambia as well.

As the sun begins to shine, griffon vultures spread their wings to dry them. It had been raining all night, making their wings wet.

Griffon vultures, 4 November 2014

A small trailer brings 100kg of slaughterhouse offal to the mountain. About 20 kg of this is meat for the griffon vultures; much is bones. Today, there are about eighty vultures. So, on average, each vulture gets about 225g meat. So, the vulture restaurants help the vultures; but they still have to find more food elsewhere.

This video is about the vulture restaurant on 4 November 2014.

Manuel tells that the griffon vultures, coming closest to him, eating out of his hand, are birds which he used to care for when they were ill.

While the griffon vultures are feeding, one bearded vulture, later two, circles above them. They don’t like to join the griffon vulture crowds. If they wait till the griffon vultures have stripped the meat from the bones, they can pick up the bones. Then, they will drop the bones from the air on rocks, breaking them. This way, they can get their favourite food: bone marrow. It takes young bearded vultures a long time to learn how to drop the bones in the right way.

Two ravens, and two golden eagles flying. Sometimes, these species join the griffon vultures for feeding. Today, they don’t seem to be hungry.

Griffon vultures mate for life, Manuel says. If one bird’s partner dies, then that vulture will not breed for some years. They also usually await their turn during feeding. Sometimes they quarrel. Maybe in wildlife films, quarrels among vultures while feeding are over-emphasized, as they look more spectacular in the film.

Sierra de Guara view, 4 November 2014

From the vulture restaurant, a beautiful view of the surroundings.

Later that day, we go to a reservoir. Two little grebes swimming.

A female siskin along the road.

A bit further, we have the privilege to see a wallcreeper again. It cleans its feathers.

In a park, we hear a great spotted woodpecker. Goldfinches in a tree.

Indian vultures news update


This video says about itself:

Vulture Sanctuary, Jorbeer, India

8 March 2014

Jorbeer is a major source of food availability for vultures, about 20-35 carcasses are dumped per day by the municipal board and local townspeople. They are placed here on the outskirts of town to help the dwindling vulture populations.

In the early 1990s, vultures of India and South Asia were among the most abundant large raptors in the world. However, within a decade, the populations of three species, White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Indian Vulture (G. indicus), and Slender-billed Vulture (G. tenuirostris), had declined so sharply that all three are considered Critically Endangered.

Extensive research identified the cause of the decline to be ‘diclofenac‘, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat livestock. Any vultures feeding on the carcasses of animals recently treated with the drug suffered renal failure and died.

The loss of vultures resulted in a sharp increase in the number of feral dogs around carcass dumps—the bites of these dogs are the most common cause of human rabies in the region. A 2008 study estimated that, concurrent with the vulture die-off, there was more than a 5.5 million increase in the feral dog population. This resulted in 38.5 million additional dog bites and more than 47,300 additional rabies deaths.

The drug, diclofenac, was banned in 2006, and recent surveys suggest vulture numbers have stabilized in India resulting from this ban. Although the vulture population has stabilized, the numbers remain very low across the region and any recovery will be slow.

From Wildlife Extra:

Vulture deaths down by a third since deadly drug ban

Since the 2006 ban the number of vultures dying from the drug diclofenac in India has reduced by more than a third a study carried out between 2005 and 2009 has found.

The vulture-toxic veterinary drug was banned from use in India in 2006, and since then the number of livestock carcasses found containing the drug has halved. However, experts say that six percent of carcasses are still contaminated with diclofenac, despite its use to treat livestock now being illegal.

Vulture deaths have not completely stopped because the drug is still licensed for human use and Indian pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing it in vials large enough to treat livestock. Therefore some veterinary surgeons and livestock owners continue to choose diclofenac over the vulture-safe alternative, meloxicam.

“The findings of our study are both good news and bad news,” said Dr Toby Galligan, RSPB conservation scientist and co-author of this study. “The good news is that veterinary use of diclofenac in India has decreased significantly; the bad news is that it has not stopped completely.

“Six percent of livestock carcasses remain contaminated with diclofenac, which equates to 1 in 200 vultures dying from diclofenac poisoning every time they feed. This might not sound like much, but we know that the death of three in 200 vultures per meal was enough to have caused the catastrophic declines.”

Ten years ago three species of South Asian vulture faced near-extinction because of widespread use of diclofenac to treat livestock, the carcasses of which were their main food source. In particular the Oriental White-backed vulture declined by more than 99.9 per cent in just 15 years.

“We’ve come so far and this is turning into one of the biggest conservation success stories ever – an additional South Asia-wide ban on diclofenac in vials larger than 3ml will contribute greatly to the recovery of vultures,” said Galligan.

Other stories on diclofenac and vultures

Vulture killing drug now available on EU market: here.

Birdlife India to establish vulture safe zone: here.

Despite killing nearly all vultures in Asia, veterinary diclofenac was made legal in Europe in 2013. After intense campaigning by Birdlife, EU institutions are finally considering a ban. The European Medicines Agency is expected to rule on the lethal drug by November 30: here.

Save Europe’s vultures and eagles


This video says about itself:

11 February 2013

This video tells the story of a poisoned Bonelli’s Eagle that was rehabilitated in North Cyprus by a group of local conservationists who have been tracking the status of the species in their country.

From BirdLife:

By Luca Bonaccorsi, Thu, 25/09/2014 – 14:59

After months of wrestling, the European Commission has given mandate to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to assess the risks to vulture populations of the use of veterinary medicines containing diclofenac. This represents a major breakthrough and opens the door for the European ban of the killer drug that wiped out entire vulture populations in Asia. BirdLife International and the Vulture Conservation Foundation appeal to all parties involved to submit scientific evidence to the EMA by 10 October 2014.

Diclofenac is a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug that kills vultures and eagles – in India it caused a 99% decline of a number of vulture species there, before eventually being banned in four countries in the region. Quite incredibly, veterinary diclofenac has now been allowed to be used on farm animals in Europe – in Estonia, Italy and Spain for cattle, pigs and horses, and in the Czech Republic and Latvia for horses only. The drug has been marketed by an Italian company named FATRO, and was allowed using loopholes in the EU guidelines to assess risk of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs.

The European Medicines Agency has now opened a public consultation on the matter, directed at all professional bodies with information about scavenging birds, veterinary practices and the disposal of animal by-products. With this decision, the European Commission acknowledges the facts raised by BirdLife International and the Vulture Conservation Foundation, who are leading an international campaign to ban veterinary diclofenac in Europe.

José Tavares, Executive Director of the VCF states: “It is impossible to leave this drug out there, and it’s the time for the EU to acknowledge the reality on the ground in countries like Italy and Spain. Even if there was a strict veterinary prescription system – and this is not the case – it would still be impossible for the veterinary managing the drug to oversee the disposal of all the dead animals. In Spain when pigs, lambs and goats die in open fields they are often reached by vultures even before farmers are aware of it.”

Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation for Europe and Central Asia at BirdLife International says: “We welcome the decision, and thank our BirdLife Partners and supporters. Our vulture experts are working on our reply to EMA, but it is crucial that we take any single opportunity to call for the immediate ban of this product. There are safe alternatives and we have already seen how dangerous veterinary diclofenac is for vultures. We won’t stop until a European ban is implemented”.

This video is called Stop Vulture Poisoning Now.

New research published by a Spanish-British-American team in Conservation Biology documents a suspected flunixin poisoning of a wild Eurasian griffon vulture from Spain: here.

Stop vulture poisoning


This video says about itself:

Stop Vulture Poisoning Now

12 September 2014

A drug which has poisoned 99% of all vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal almost overnight, is now spreading rapidly across Europe. This introduction is compounding many other threats to now make vultures one of the most highly-threatened bird families on the planet.

With a united Partnership of 70 conservation organisations across Europe and Africa, BirdLife has the network, knowledge and know-how to save vultures.

They know that simple and effective solutions exist, and urgently need £20,000 to identify, and tackle the threats to these most beautiful and important of birds. Please support BirdLife’s work to stop vulture poisoning now.

Your generous donation will first be used to fight for a ban of veterinary diclofenac across Europe and tackle other threats in Africa. This action alone could save thousands of vultures.

Your money will also enable an expert team of BirdLife scientists to undertake an urgent review of all vulture species. This study will provide vital information enabling thousands of conservationists around the globe to take action. It will empower them to act, and gain greater support for their herculean efforts.

Tackling widespread threats to entire families of birds like this are very difficult, but BirdLife’s experience shows coordinated action can be highly successful. As a result of their experience and expertise with Asian vultures, BirdLife has a small but important head-start in Africa and Europe.

Your support is vital to this work, and will make a real difference to its success. Please, dig deep, donate now and help us keep vultures flying as high as they should be.

Thank you

www.birdlife.org

Music: Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Vulture video footage: Carles Carboneras
Thanks to interviewees: Dr Mark Anderson, Iván Ramírez, Stephen Awoyemi.
Thanks to Margaret Atwood, David Lindo, Simon King, Chris Packham for their support to the campaign.
Photo credits to follow

This video is called Ban diclofenac to save Vultures!

North and South African vultures


This video from South Africa is called Lappet-faced, White-backed and White-headed Vultures.

From North African Birds blog today:

Eight vulture species live or have lived in the three Maghreb countries (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia), here is their complete list sorted according to their taxonomic positions. Of these eight species, 3 still breed in the region (Bearded Vulture, Egyptian Vulture and Griffon Vulture), 2 are former breeders and now extinct from the region (Cinereous Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture), and finally 3 are accidental visitors from sub-Saharan Africa (Hooded Vulture, White-backed Vulture and Rüppell’s Vulture).

The total number of species in the list of each country: 6 species for Algeria, 8 species for Morocco and 4 species for Tunisia.

The species that still breed in each country are as follow: Algeria (Egyptian Vulture & Griffon Vulture), Morocco (Bearded Vulture & Egyptian Vulture) and Tunisia (Egyptian Vulture).