Vultures are large carnivorous birds found throughout the world apart from Australia and Antarctica. Of the total 14 species of vultures, four are found in Kenya. Namely; the white headed vulture, the hooded vulture the Rupell’s vulture and the white-backed vulture. They can all be found in areas with major animal population including game parks and reserves e.g. the Maasai Mara. Vultures are also common in areas where livestock occur in large numbers. Although each species has particular characteristics that distinguish them, they also have common factors as vultures. Here are some interesting facts about them.
There are two sets of vultures
Vultures are generally categorized into two sets i.e. the New World and the Old World vultures. The New World referring to the Americas while the Old World refers to Africa, Asia and Europe. The main difference in the two species is that the New World vultures identify their prey by smell and sight while the Old World vultures depended solely on vision.
They are commonly referred to as undertakers
Vultures only eat carcasses. Therefore, they are commonly connected with death whenever they are sighted. For this reason, vultures gained the name undertakers because of their arrival that happens soon after an animal dies.
They are tame
Vultures are subtly tame birds that do not fear human beings as much as other animals. For this reason, they can be seen in towns especially near large dumpsites and slaughterhouses.
They have very high gastric acidity
Vultures never suffer from food poisoning. This is because the pH in their stomachs is almost zero. Such high acidity eliminates the survival of bacteria or any other disease-causing germs.
They help prevent diseases
Without vultures in the ecosystem, Anthrax and Rabies would be worldwide catastrophes. Vultures play an irreplaceable role in the cleaning up of the environment by consuming carcasses that is left unattended would be disastrous to both human and other animal populations.
They are endangered birds
As much as vultures do not have direct predators, they happen to be highly endangered and sometimes vulnerable birds. Their main source of threat comes from the human population. Continued destruction of their natural habitat and cultural practises that demand the hunting of the birds have led to their decline. In the Mara, vultures face a high risk of poisoning by ingesting chemicals present in livestock carcasses.