Our innovative conservation team have been busy preparing a rather unusual new eatery at Safarihoek in Namibia, in the shape of a vulture restaurant!
The initiative came about due to the sad fact that vulture numbers in southern Africa have been in decline for the past 30 years, and despite not being the prettiest of characters, they are a fascinating and integral part of the ecosystem.
A primary cause of their decline is through accidental poisoning on farms. Many farmers will leave out poisoned carcasses in order to attract and kill large carnivores who might otherwise kill their livestock, and unfortunately the temptation also brings in the vultures.
It is hoped that our new vulture restaurant will top the vultures’ lists of ‘where to be seen’, and draw the birds away from farmlands, giving them a safe place to eat unpoisoned food, and support their chick rearing endeavours. They certainly seem to approve of the menu so far!
There are two types of vultures. The New World Vultures, who live in the Americas and include Andean and Californian Condors, and the Old World Vultures who are found in Africa, Europe and Asia and include the bearded vulture.
There is at least one species of vulture to be found on every continent, except for Antarctica and Australia.
The collective names differ according to the activity the birds are engaging in. They can be called a flock, venue, volt or committee, but when feeding they’re a wake, and when flying in formation they’re a kettle.
There’s a total of 23 different vulture species, and over half are threatened, endangered or critically endangered.
Vultures use a process known as Urohydrosis, meaning that they urinate on themselves in order to cool down when temperatures soar. The technique serves another purpose though, as their acidic urine disinfects their legs of bacteria after they’ve fed on a rotten carcass.
It’s incredibly important to have vultures around as they actually help clean up the environment and prevent the spread of diseases such as rabies and tuberculosis. They achieve this impressive feat through their consumption and clearing away of carcasses.
Their distinctive, and some might say ugly appearance, is actually due to hygiene. Their beak can’t reach their face and neck to clean it (rather like a human trying to stick an elbow into their ear), so they’re bare skinned to stay clean.
The first Saturday of September is International Vulture Awareness Day.