Nearly all species of African vulture are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN, and Nature Rwanda is leading a movement to reverse this trend in Rwanda. But what makes this species so important in the first place?
Vultures have evolved to have a particularly corrosive stomach acid, which helps them digest rotting prey that would make most other animals, including humans, quite sick. Without these valuable scavengers, bacteria from rotting bodies are transferred to a wider array of animals and can eventually spread to the human population as bacterial or viral infections like COVID-19.
This isn’t just a hypothetical, though. India has spent billions of dollars addressing a rabies outbreak that can be tied to a rapid decline in the country’s vulture population.
To understand the solutions to this crisis, we must understand its source. One of the greatest threats to vultures is poachers- but not because these birds look nice perched on a mantle. Vultures can draw attention to the bodies these illegal hunters leave behind. To avoid detection, poachers have begun to purposefully poison their kills.
Farmers do something similar when they try to distract predators like lions with poisoned carcasses on the edge of their property.
Whether purposeful or not, these practices kill vultures and leave the carcasses to be eaten by other scavengers; ones that do not have corrosive stomach acid that help eliminate illness-causing microbes that can bring rabies, tetanus, gangrene, and cholera to humans. Vulture conservation is a viable way to prevent a health crisis like the one in India, or even the one being experienced across the world with the COVID-19 pandemic. Contribute to this cause by demanding tighter restrictions on wildlife crimes, donating to vulture conservation efforts, and educating others. Even sharing this story can make a huge difference.
To learn about Nature Rwanda’s Vulture Conservation program, follow this link: Get Involved.