Our Beautiful World

Old World Vultures, Genus Gyps and others.   

Two Lappet-faced Vultures, Torgos tracheliotus and an African White-backed Vulture, Gyps africanus
Photo: Jerry Friedman

Old World vultures belong to the family Accipitridae, which also includes eagles, buzzards, kites, and hawks.

Old World vultures are not closely related to the superficially similar New World vultures and condors, and do not
share that group's good sense of smell. Old World vultures are probably a polyphyletic group within Accipitridae, with
Palm-nut Vulture, Egyptian Vulture and Lammergeier separate from the others.

Both Old World and New World vultures are scavenging birds, feeding mostly from carcasses of dead animals.
Old World vultures find carcasses exclusively by sight. A particular characteristic of many vultures is a bald head,
devoid of feathers; if vultures had head feathers, they would become spattered with blood and other fluids when the
vultures ate flesh from carcasses, and thus would be difficult to keep clean.

Engelsk Norsk Latinsk
Cinereous Vulture Munkegribb Aegypius monachus
Lammergeier / Bearded Vulture Lammegribb Gypaetus barbatus
Palm-nut Vulture Palmegribb Gypohierax angolensis
White-backed Vulture Hvitryggribb Gyps africanus
White-rumped Vulture Bengalgribb Gyps bengalensis
Cape Vulture


Gyps coprotheres
Eurasian Griffon / Griffon Vulture Gåsegribb Gyps fulvus
Himalayan Vulture / Griffon Himalayagribb Gyps himalayensis
Indian (Long-billed) Vulture Indiagribb Gyps indicus
Rüppell's Vulture / Griffon Skjellgribb Gyps rueppelli
Slender-billed Vulture Teraigribb Gyps tenuirostris
Hooded Vulture Hettegribb Necrosyrtes monachus
Egyptian Vulture Åtselgribb Neophron percnopterus
Red-headed Vulture Rødhodegribb Sarcogyps calvus
Lappet-faced Vulture Øregribb Torgos tracheliotus
White-headed Vulture Hvithodegribb Trigonoceps occipitalis

Lammegribben, Gypaetus barbatus, med et vingespenn på over 3 meter!
Photo: Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak

Threat due to diclofenac poisoning

Diclofenac poisoning has caused the vulture population in India and Pakistan to decline by up to 95% in the past decade, and two or three of the species of vulture in South Asia are nearing extinction. This has been caused by the practice of medicating working farm animals with diclofenac, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) with anti-inflammatory and pain killing actions. Diclofenac administration keeps animals that are ill or in pain working on the land for longer, but, if the ill animals die, their carcasses contain diclofenac. Farmers leave the dead animals out in the open, relying on vultures to tidy up. Diclofenac present in carcass flesh is eaten by vultures, which are sensitive to diclofenac, and they suffer kidney failure, visceral gout, and death as a result of diclofenac poisoning.

The decline in vultures has led to hygiene problems in India as carcasses of dead animals now tend to rot, or be eaten by rats or wild dogs, rather than be tidied up by vultures. Rabies among these other scavengers is a major health threat. India has one of the world's highest incidences of rabies.

The decline in vultures causes particular problems for certain communities, such as the Parsi, who practice sky burials, where the human dead are put on the top of a Tower of Silence and are eaten by vultures, leaving only dry bones.

Meloxicam (another NSAID) has been found to be harmless to vultures and should prove an acceptable alternative to diclofenac. The Government of India banned diclofenac, but over a year later, in 2007, it continued to be sold and is still a problem in other parts of the world.



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