15 Photos of Vultures Show Them in a Way You’ve Never Seen Them Before
According to National Geographic photographer Charlie Hamilton James, vultures are “the fastest-declining birds in history … of all the animals in the world they are the ones that are possibly in the most trouble.” The vulture is being slaughtered in Africa in record numbers because witch doctors believe their brains and other body parts can help people see into the future. The vulture’s disappearance is already having a major effect on Africa’s ecosystem because their meat consumption is larger than all other scavengers’ combined.
To bring attention to the plight of the vulture, James embarked on an ambitious photo shoot, going so far as putting a camera in the carcass of a zebra to get a never-seen-before glimpse into their feeding habits. James also documented the underground vulture trade in an illegal bush-meat marketplace.
Bird facts courtesy of Birding.
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“What really saddens me is that even with us creating the biggest exposure the vulture crisis has ever had, I still don't think anything will happen fast enough to stop the decline.” —Charlie Hamilton James
There are 23 vulture species in the world, and at least one type of vulture is found on every continent except Australia and Antarctica.
Different vulture species have different-shaped beaks, which means that each feeds on a particular part of a carcass (like innards and muscle tissue or hide). Competition for food is thus reduced.
Vultures are relatively social and often feed, fly, or roost in large flocks. A group of vultures is called a committee, venue, or volt.
Vultures have excellent senses of sight and smell to help them locate food, and they can find a dead animal from a mile or more away. Because of this, vultures often have large territories and will spend a lot of time soaring to locate their next meal.
“It toook three weeks to get this shot.” —Charlie Hamilton James
“In South Africa, vultures consume more meat than all of the other scavengers put together.” —Charlie Hamilton James
“They are the fastest-declining birds in history.” —Charlie Hamilton James
Vultures have relatively weak legs and feet with blunt talons, though they do have powerful bills. If a carcass is too stiff for them to rip open, they will wait for another predator to open the flesh before they feed, which is why vultures are often seen in the company of other carrion-eating animals.
“Vulture parts are wanted in the witch dcotor trade because they believe it helps them see into the future.” —Charlie Hamilton James
Vultures being sold at an illegal market.
“I want people to see them at their best, which is when they are fighting and they are covered in blood and they are utterly repulsive ... and they are wonderful for it.” —Charlie Hamilton James
“They are wonderful creatures, and we are killing them at such an extraordinary rate they are probably going to be extinct in the next 5 to 10 years.” —Charlie Hamilton James
“Of all the animals in the world they are the ones that are possibly in the most trouble.” —Charlie Hamilton James