University of Utah biologists on 5 May 2016 released a report titled “Why Vultures matter – and what we lose if they’re gone”. The report published in Biological Conservation highlights the impact of decline in population of vultures on ecosystem and human.
The report comes at a time when vultures, which serve as a barrier to prevent diseases from proliferating in dead animals and spreading to humans, in some parts of the world are in danger of disappearing or on the brink of extinction.
The study was funded by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and by the University of Utah’s Global Change and Sustainability Center.
What does the report say?
• Primary threats to Vultures: Presence of toxins in the carrion they consume. In many continents they became victims of poisoned carcasses as dozens or hundreds of vulture can feast on a single carcass.
• Poisoning impacts 88 percent of threatened vulture species. The poisons come in many forms like diclofenac.
• Their extinction also affects many other organisms throughout the ecosystem.
• Ecosystem Impact: Losses of vultures can allow other scavengers, like dogs, rats, crows and others, to flourish, which could bring bacteria and viruses from carcasses into human cities.
• Rise of the facultative scavengers will upset the balance of food webs.
• Human impacts: Declining ratio or extinction of vultures would help diseases spreading from dead animals to march on the ways of human in the developing world, as other facultative scavengers are not so adapted to stop the disease from entering into human populations.
• Vulture Decline and India: The effect of decline in population of Vultures can be cited from the outbreak of rabies in India from 1992 to 2006 in which an estimated 48000 people were killed.
• This happened as in mid-1990s India experienced a steep decline in vulture population during which more than 95 percent of vultures disappeared by the early 2000s.
• This decline in Vulture population was attributed due to the use of diclofenac, a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug that relieved pain in cattle.
• As a result of which, international cooperation led to a total ban on use of veterinary diclofenac.
How Vultures help prevent disease?
Vultures are efficient consumers of carrion and their stomachs are highly acidic and capable of killing nearly all bacteria or viruses that may be present in carrion.
This capability of vulture helps human to be safe from diseases that can proliferate from dead animals and spread in humans.
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