Life and Death at the Dull Edge of Extinction
This chapter explores extinction as a drawn-out and ongoing process of loss by examining the lives of vultures. Vultures are “obligate” scavengers—they do not opportunistically alternate between predation and scavenging, but exclusively rely on finding animal carcasses. But while scavenging has been the innate food procurement method for them, it is arguably not the most attractive way of getting a meal. One of the most prevalent instances is when these birds encounter less than “fresh” food and, as such, are required to possess a high level of resistance to various pathogens and diseases. However, over the past two decades, vultures have been dying in groups as a result of their being unintentionally poisoned by diclofenac—a drug given to cattle whose carcasses vultures eat. Diclofenac causes vulture bodies to get inflamed and swell up, eventually killing them.
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