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A new study shows that African vultures fly up to 140 miles a day in search of prey and prefer to hunt outside of national park areas. They do this to avoid competition with other predators over the available prey. This behavior, though designed to increase survival, may actually be placing them at greater risk.
By hunting outside of protected areas, the vultures are more likely to end up feeding on prey and carrion that has been contaminated with toxins. Domesticated animals are likely to be filled with veterinary pharmaceuticals that are poisonous to the birds. Alternately poisoned carrion is left out purposely to destroy predators in farm areas.
The study also found that the vultures were attracted to carrion by "vulture restaurants." These places put out extra food for the birds just to draw them close enough so that they can be observed by curious tourists. The behavior of some vultures changed to stay closer to the guaranteed food supply. This has provided insight into the possibility of creating such stations to draw the birds away from areas where they would be at high risk of poisoning.
The white-backed vulture has been a common species in Africa but is currently listed as endangered. The bottom line of the study suggests that a future solution to saving the scavengers includes educating farmers, a closer look at current veterinary practices in the region, and an uncontaminated food supply.
Source: Terra Daily
Laurie Kay Olson
Animal News Blogger