Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Vultures Have Had Enough

A curious story that I noticed in the press yesterday, a large group of between 100-200 Griffon vultures has been spotted in the last few days flying over Belgium and Holland. It is believed that the vultures have probably come from Spain, which has easily the largest population of these birds in Europe. The mystery is why the vultures should be found so far from the Iberian Peninsula, their population here has recovered dramatically in the last 30 years and it is easy to see them when walking in the mountains near to Madrid. Perhaps the answer comes down to that great British invention, BSE (or mad cow disease if you prefer). A few years ago livestock owners in Spain were instructed to stop their traditional practice of leaving the carcasses of dead animals in specially designated places where the vultures could come and enjoy their meal in peace. With cases of BSE occurring in different European countries there was concern about the disease spreading to other species and it was decided that animal carcasses had to be disposed of securely. The vultures were not consulted about this, and have been left to make do with whatever else they can find. There have even been some reports of them starting to attack live animals as it becomes harder to get the really tasty ones that have been dead for a couple of days. Now it looks like they’ve taken to tourism to see if the situation improves; I don’t know if it’s a sign of hard times ahead for a country when the vultures start leaving?

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