Vultures get their own restaurant

Vultures get their own restaurant

120720_07a

It’s more gory than throwing seed to pigeons and more effort than tossing bread to ducks, but here in Cambodia, ‘vulture restaurants’ are being set up to ensure these remarkable birds get fed, and the dwindling vulture population in South Asia is protected.

Numbers have recently crashed across the region – populations have shrunk dramatically in South East Asia and plummeted by as much as 90 – 99% on the Indian subcontinent.

However, despite such worrying trends, the outlook for the birds is much brighter in Cambodia; research published last month shows that numbers are stable and may in fact be increasing.

This fact may be thanks in part to the efforts of a coalition of conservation groups, in partnership with the Cambodian government, which has for eight years been managing several ‘vulture restaurants’ set up in vulture territory in the North East provinces.

Sources of vulture food were initially restricted by the loss of the Cambodian wild cattle population during the country’s years of civil war, but in more recent years changing agricultural practices and the adoption of machinery to replace animal for transport has deprived them of domestic carrion too, necessitating this supplementary feeding programme.

One cattle carcass is delivered to each restaurant once a month.

It has to be cut up in preparation; the vultures are not equipped with sharp enough beaks and claws to slash through tough hide and without help, the birds would have to wait three days for the process of composition to begin.

Remarkably, it only takes an hour for fifty hungry birds to finish their feast.

Simon Mahood, from the Wildlife Conservation Society, explains why it is important to preserve the vulture population.

“Up until the 1960s, Cambodia had incredible megafauna; cattle, deer, elephants, tigers", he said. "The bigger animals are gone now, or are here in much depleted numbers. It is relatively cheap to restore the wild cattle and deer populations and we must ensure that we hang on to the vultures in the meantime."

"In India they are spending a lot of money on a captive breeding programme, but it is relatively easy and cheap to maintain a stable population here,” he added.

The Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project is also undertaking advocacy work to minimise the use of those drugs and poisons in agriculture and pest control that are lethal to vultures, and it is setting up nest protection programmes to ensure successful breeding.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Brown at [email protected]

MOST VIEWED

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget