South Asian Vultures – Nature’s Undertakers

South Asian Vultures – Nature’s Undertakers

Music; Ambience: Vultures

JM: Vultures are an essential part of the local ecosystem in south Asia, but for the past ten years, these birds have been dying off in alarming numbers. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

RW: “Vultures play an important role in the natural ecosystem by consuming dead animals and other kinds of carcasses and removing them from the environment. In particular in South Asia, even human corpses.”

JM: Rick Watson is International Programs Director of the Peregrine Fund.

RW: “There’s one particular religious sect, the Parsee community, who rely on sky burial to remove their human corpses, which involves laying out the corpses for vultures to consume.”

JM: In south Asia, vultures have been credited with helping to keep infectious diseases in check.

RW: “Vultures perform a very essential function in removing carcasses which may be diseased. If they’ve died, for example, of anthrax, vultures typically descend to a carcass and may consume that in perhaps an hour. Thereby essentially neutralizing the pathogen, the disease that’s in that carcass. The result is that vultures play an important role in controlling both livestock diseases and human diseases. Another scenario is that once vultures have gone, other scavengers like dogs, cats and rats would increase and fill in the niche that they once occupied. This presents a potential threat to humans, because diseases such as rabies and plague may well increase as dogs and rats increase in number.”

JM: Since the 1990’s, the population of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal has dropped by over 90 percent. In future programs, we’ll hear how scientists have found the cause of their demise with hopefully enough time to prevent the birds’ extinction. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

South Asian Vultures - Nature's Undertakers

The vultures of South Asia play a crucial role in their local ecosystem.
Air Date:11/19/2012
Scientist:
Transcript:

South Asian Vultures - Nature's Undertakers

Music; Ambience: Vultures

JM: Vultures are an essential part of the local ecosystem in south Asia, but for the past ten years, these birds have been dying off in alarming numbers. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

RW: "Vultures play an important role in the natural ecosystem by consuming dead animals and other kinds of carcasses and removing them from the environment. In particular in South Asia, even human corpses."

JM: Rick Watson is International Programs Director of the Peregrine Fund.

RW: "There's one particular religious sect, the Parsee community, who rely on sky burial to remove their human corpses, which involves laying out the corpses for vultures to consume."

JM: In south Asia, vultures have been credited with helping to keep infectious diseases in check.

RW: "Vultures perform a very essential function in removing carcasses which may be diseased. If they've died, for example, of anthrax, vultures typically descend to a carcass and may consume that in perhaps an hour. Thereby essentially neutralizing the pathogen, the disease that's in that carcass. The result is that vultures play an important role in controlling both livestock diseases and human diseases. Another scenario is that once vultures have gone, other scavengers like dogs, cats and rats would increase and fill in the niche that they once occupied. This presents a potential threat to humans, because diseases such as rabies and plague may well increase as dogs and rats increase in number."

JM: Since the 1990's, the population of vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal has dropped by over 90 percent. In future programs, we'll hear how scientists have found the cause of their demise with hopefully enough time to prevent the birds' extinction. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.