How do vultures cope with and kill deadly germs?

Cape Vultures feeding at VulPro's Vulture Restaurant
Cape Vultures feeding at VulPro’s Vulture Restaurant

Humans get food poisoning so easily and have to be so careful with our food, yet vultures eat rotting meat from carcasses and are absolutely fine, how do they do it?

The simple answer is that vultures stomachs are filled with serious or noxious bacteria that are stronger than the bad bacteria that they swallow whilst eating.  Their stomach acid is also very strong which helps them to break down the bacteria on their food as well.

Strange Fact:

A vulture’s stomach acid is 10 to 100 times stronger than human stomach acid, making the stomach itself is a very harsh environment for bacteria to survive in.

This means that vultures in effect have turbo tummies that can kill off diseases that are a real threat to humans and animals alike.  Diseases such as Anthrax, Botulism and Foot and Mouth; vultures can even deal with Leprosy.

The vulture’s stomach has mostly two bacteria in it and strangely both are known as poisons by humans:

  • Fusobacteria, which can cause blood infections
  • Clostridium, which produces deadly botulism toxins

Studies conducted on alligators (also carrion eaters) showed that they also have high levels of Fusobacteria and Clostridium, this suggests that these scavengers have developed this microbiome (the bacteria and environment in their stomach and intestines) allowing them to thrive on what would kill other animals and people.

This is one of the reasons that vulture restaurants are so important for farmers, especially in the rural communities where a disease outbreak such as foot and mouth could ruin farmers, leaving them with nothing.  Vulture restaurants allow farmers to safely and quickly get rid of their carcasses while supporting and helping to save many endangered vulture species.

Below is a short video of hungry wild vultures, trying to get into one of our enclosures to gain access to food.  VulPro’s vulture restaurants sees hundreds of vultures and marabou storks visiting it everyday benefiting from the regular supply of safe food.

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