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Imperiled Raptor

May 6, 2015

Imperiled Raptor

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Tanya Dimitrova Tanya Dimitrova

Vultures are among the most disliked birds of prey. People poison them, shoot them, and hunt them for voodoo. They let them get electrocuted. As a result, Egyptian vultures are the fastest disappearing raptor species in Europe. Fewer than 2,000 couples remain on the Old Continent.

I’ve always wondered if vultures’ connection to death that makes them so darkly fascinating to some and that spurs so many superstitions. Vultures are, after all, in close contact with dead animals. In Chad, shamans smoke vultures’ brains to supposedly gain clairvoyant powers.

Dr. Stoyan Nikolov from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds has an alternative explanation: “They look like humans: have bare skin, wrinkles, hairdos … Maybe that’s why many people don’t like them.”

With his team of more than 100 people, Nikolov, the manager of an EU-funded conservation project, is working hard to make sure Egyptian vultures don’t disappear from the Balkans.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For our current assignment, we’re celebrating birds. Send us your best bird photos for a chance to win Vanguard binoculars. In the New York area? Join us on May 9 for our annual Birdathon at the Bronx Zoo. Bring your camera and take photos for the assignment.


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