See real turkey vultures at The Raptors on Herd Road. (submitted)

See real turkey vultures at The Raptors on Herd Road. (submitted)

Diseases claiming human lives as vultures disappear

The Raptors will be hosting their annual Vulture Awareness Weekend fundraiser on Sept. 2 and 3

The Raptors will be hosting their annual Vulture Awareness Weekend fundraiser on Sept. 2 and 3 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the birds of prey visitor centre, 1877 Herd Rd., Duncan.

In addition to flying demonstrations and meet and greets, the event will feature a barbecue, silent auction, and special vulture-themed activities.

Vultures are nature’s clean-up crew and one of the most effective agents for disease control. Potent digestive acids enable vultures to consume infected carcasses without propagating disease.

Unlike our local turkey vultures, which are doing quite well, many vulture species throughout Africa and Asia are listed as critically endangered. The white-rumped vulture, for example, has suffered a population decline of 99.9 per cent since 1992. Most vulture population declines are a result of poisoning, and are entirely preventable.

The loss of these important scavenging birds is of great detriment to humans, particularly in rural parts of Africa and Asia, where outbreaks of rabies and anthrax are on the rise as wild dog populations thrive in the absence of carrion-eating competitors. This crisis is poorly reported in the western world.

Raptors’ general manager Robyn Radcliffe is passionate about the cause.

“We are raising awareness and funds in support of global vulture conservation efforts. Partial proceeds will also help support the Raptor Rescue Society, a local non-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates injured birds of prey.”

The Raptors have teamed up with Nanaimo artist, Nicholas May, to create some attention-grabbing artwork for the event. Inspired by Monty Python’s iconic comedy sketch set in the black plague era, the “Bring Out Your Dead” campaign draws on dark humour to illustrate a more serious issue; namely, the correlation between declining vulture populations and the increase in disease-related human deaths.

“Like a lot of folks, I’m a big Monty Python fan. And I’ve always admired the important work The Raptors does with birds of prey,” says May. “During our first meeting, they took me for a tour of their conservation centre and surprised me with a hands-on turkey vulture encounter — it’s amazing to see (the birds) up close and learn about their vital role in our world.”