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Save the Vultures… and Save Human Lives!

by Douglas Main

Vultures are more valuable than you may think, or at least they were.

In the 1980s, more than 40 million vultures existed throughout India, where they ate about 12 million tons (11 million metric tons) of rotting flesh each year, according to the environmental writer Tony Juniper. Today, however, vulture populations have been reduced to only a few tens of thousands, and three of the most important species are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They have declined largely because ranchers started giving their cattle an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac that is toxic to the birds, which eat dead cattle, Juniper writes. Without vultures to eat this festering morass, wild dogs have taken their place and populations have boomed. The dogs have, in turn, spread rabies by biting humans, killing an estimated 50,000 people in the last couple decades, according to Juniper…

(read more: Live Science)                            (image: Munir Virani)

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