They are scavenger feeders which means they feed on dead carcasses; by quickly removing these carcasses from the ecosystem they are decreasing the chance that diseases from them are spread to other wildlife.
Photo © Walter Neser
They can also be used to indicate the health of the environment they live in as they are at the top of the food chain. But sadly, many species of vulture are decreasing throughout much of their range.
Human activities have had a large impact on vulture populations, with vultures facing threats ranging from habitat destruction and a decline in food availability to illegal collection for traditional medicine.
In South Africa, the two greatest threats to vultures are collisions with electrical power lines resulting in electrocutions, and poisoning by farmers.
Farmers often target unwanted carnivore predators by leaving poisoned meat for them – unfortunately, as scavenger feeders, vultures often reach this meat first.
To help combat this issue, Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife has supported the South African organisation VulPro with a number of vulture conservation and research projects over the past few years.
Currently, the threat of Avian Influenza or bird flu is a huge issue and our support is allowing researchers to determine the susceptibility of the Cape and African White-backed vultures to Avian Influenza.
It’s not just South African vultures which Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife is helping. We’re also supporting work in Nepal on the endangered Egyptian vulture and the critically endangered Red-headed vulture.
Both these species have undergone rapid declines in the recent years and researchers are studying both species and helping to conserve them.
We’ve put together some great photos from the vulture conservation projects which we support - please share this blog to raise awareness for vultures around the world.
Photo © Tulsi Subedi
Photo (c) Tulsi Subedi
Photo (c) Walter Neser