Let’s be honest, there aren’t very many people who will openly admit to liking a hyena. And regrettably, the same can be said for the Vulture. But, in honour of International Vulture Day – yes, such a day exists and it takes place on the first Saturday of September every year to publicise the conservation of vultures – it seems only fair that I be the voice to our balding feathered friends. Believe it or not, they deserve our praise.
I bet you didn’t know that vultures fulfil a vital function in our ecosystem, cleaning up dead animal carcasses. These flying scavengers help to prevent the spread of diseases by disposing of rotting remains. They’re built for the job too, with a bare head and neck to keep them clean and ensure that bacteria-laden remains don’t fester in their feathers and spread diseases.
So when we’re on a game drive and everyone is looking down at the ground for lion tracks, or into the nearest bush for signs of a rustle – I’m looking up. Because high up in the skies, floating on air currents and getting ready for a meal, are the hyenas of the sky; a tell-tale sign that a kill has taken place, and assurance that Mother Nature and her systems are all in place.
Which is why it scares me when I hear that the conservation of the Vulture is becoming increasingly more concerning as many species are nearing extinction.
At Nambiti Hills, we commonly see the White-backed Vulture, the Cape Vulture and less commonly the Lappet faced Vulture. And it’s a sight that I’d like to keep seeing. Join us this month, as we go in search of and pay tribute to the serious looking, but seriously important Vulture.
See you soon.