September 3rd is International Vulture Awareness Day, which casts the spotlight on these often misunderstood birds. Vultures are pivotal to the health of their environment; they feed on the recently deceased, and help stop the spread of disease. This has huge impacts, especially for human populations, as it reduces the risk of us getting sick. Sadly though, vulture populations are in massive decline.
In the 1980s we witnessed the California Condor (a type of vulture) become nearly extinct, with there being just over 20 individuals left across the entire planet. Although controversial at the time, these birds were brought into human-managed breeding programs, and today there are well over 400 California Condors, over half of which have been released back to the wild.
The past two decades has also seen vulture populations in Asia and Africa decline, and for some species they are now listed as critically endangered. The main cause for these declines is from human activities, primarily poisoning. Taronga is part-funding research in Tanzania to investigate the distributions of White-backed Vultures. It is hoped that this information will prove valuable, and provide insights into their movement patterns. If we know this, we can make informed choices as to how we can best create a stronghold for these species, and hopefully, save them from extinction. White-backed Vultures are the focus as they are a larger species of vulture; knowing their movements will also assist other species of vultures.
Having California Condor populations bounce back is proof that awareness and taking action can make a positive difference in the lives of these birds. Taronga has also helped support vulture conservation by sending our youngest Andean Condor, Zuleta, to a breeding program in the United States earlier this year. Knowing the huge impact they have on us, we need to, where we can, support them. We can also learn from the plight of vultures and take measures to protect wildlife in our own backyards. Even simple actions like contacting wildlife carers when you find injured wildlife goes a long way.
This weekend we are celebrating all things vulture, and will be doing vulture talks at 1:45pm on Saturday and Sunday, in addition to both QBE Free Flight Bird presentations at 12pm and 3pm. Taronga believes in a future for vultures, and we hope you do too.