Disease Doctor – Vultures to the Rescue

Vultures are clown like with their funny hopping run on the ground. Photo Mandy Schroder
Vultures are clown like with their funny hopping run on the ground. Photo Mandy Schroder

Some people refer to Vultures as the “garbage men” of the animal world. While that is true, as they eat all the left over carcasses and leave everything clean and healthy for us. Thinking of rubbish does make us think of something dirty and smelly. Vultures leave everything squeaky clean for us and even leave some clean bone pieces which other animals need to eat as a vital source of calcium.
Vultures are in fact very clean birds and their ability to eat rotten food and metabolise certain diseases are legendary.

Carrion eating
While vultures do eat carcasses and rotten meat, they actually prefer to eat fresh meat. Their ability to eat rotten meat means that we don’t have smelly disease ridden carcasses left lying around. Imagine the smell if the carcass of a dead animal was just left to rot and bloat in the hot sun.

Turbo Tummies
A vulture’s stomach acid is a lot stronger and more corrosive than other animals and birds, this is why they can eat rotten carcasses and not get sick. Diseases such as Cholera, Anthrax and Botulism which are deadly to people and other animals are cleaned up and destroyed by the vultures’ powerful tummy.

Cape Vulture enjoying a bath @ VulPro. Photo Kerri Wolter
Cape Vulture enjoying a bath @ VulPro. Photo Kerri Wolter

Germ Patrol
As any good doctor knows, hygiene and cleanliness are two really important factors for preventing the spread of disease. Vultures do this by bathing after each meal, and their bodies have adapted over time, so that they have hardly any feathers on their heads and necks.

Bits of blood or meat don’t stick as easily to bare skin as they would to feathers. This means that the vulture doesn’t get sick or develop skin sores, as we would have thought. It also means that they don’t spread germs wherever they go.
Their legs and feet are also bare, for the same reason.

Their regular bathing after every meal, also helps to keep everything squeaky clean, and more to the point, they LOVE it.

So the next time that you see a vulture, forget thinking about how “dirty” you think they are, you can now surprise everyone by telling them how vultures are the Doctors of the animal world.

Cape Vulture enjoying a bath at an educational talk - Photo Kerri Wolte
Cape Vulture enjoying a bath at an educational talk – Photo Kerri Wolte
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