By Georgie Bradbury
Buzzie, Dizzy, Flaps and Ziggy, not four instantly recognisable names – John, Paul, George and Ringo maybe more so?
The Beatles were the inspiration for the vulture characters in Disneys’ Jungle Book, and although when we first meet them it is in the barren landscape of the elephant graveyard – they turn out to be kindly, sympathetic and ultimately very helpful to Mowgli.
‘Nobody wants me’ says Mowgli, ‘Join the club’ the vultures reply.
Even in 1967 Disney was wrestling with the complex characterisation of the vulture. They understood that vultures were an essential presence to the environment but also dearly needed some help with their public image.
Fast forward to 2020 and our relationship with vultures is still precarious and the loss of this species poses an even greater threat to our health.
The need for a better relationship with wild animals has been raised during this current pandemic but it is understanding the interconnectedness of all species, including us that is fundamental to our future well being.
Vultures provide a vital barrier service, in essence they are a frontline defence to disease, they are designed to efficiently to clear up carrion and minimise the threat of a rotting carcasses that transfer bacterial disease into our environment.
Without vultures to clean up organic matter bacterial diseases, rabies and anthrax will rise – plus without vultures other scavengers such as rats and feral dogs will take over and these don’t digest the problem as efficiently and are more likely to come into close contact with humans and spread disease further into populated areas.
Around 70% of vultures and condors are listed as threatened or near threatened by the IUCN. The decline in the sub-species is grim reading – across old world vultures species (found in Africa, Asia and Europe) population numbers are declining 15 out of 17 old world vultures are near extinction.
But there is hope if we can recognise the fundamental role vultures play and learn from and amplify successful vulture conservation projects. We’re launching a Stampede International initiative to help raise awareness and funds for vulture conservation.
We have some exciting partner projects in the pipeline, but for now please just get involved share the messages, sign up for our newsletters and join us and our very misunderstood feathered friends.
Worth checking out these great organisations – all working on behalf of vultures.