“Aww, isn’t that cute” probably aren’t the words most people say when they see a vulture. These birds play a critical role in our ecosystem, however, serving as nature’s caretakers by helping to keep the earth cleaner and disease free.
To help Guests learn more about vultures, on September 2, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge will join other conservation organizations around the world in celebrating International Vulture Awareness Day.
Guests can try on a replica of vulture wings, create an arts-and-crafts vulture, learn about vulture digestion (talk about a unique conversation starter at your holiday dinner gatherings!), or even take part in a vulture meet-and-greet.
International Vulture Awareness Day originated in South Africa in 2006 to raise awareness of the plight of vultures in that region. Now, this event is expanding around the world and focusing on issues and conservation programs that are affecting these birds. Challenges facing vultures range from loss of habitat and food sources to electrocution on power lines and poisoning of food carcasses.
Did you know that global vulture populations have been reduced by more than 50% over the last 15 years? Some of the most devastating losses have occurred in Asia where three species of vultures – Oriental white-back, slender-billed and long-billed populations have been reduced by 97% in just the last 10 years.
Programs like the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) are helping to support the conservation of vultures. Since 2000, DWCF has directed more than $125,000 to conserve vultures around the world through annual grants and its Rapid Response Fund. For example, this year DWCF is helping to protect Asian vultures whose numbers are dwindling due to chemicals in their food sources.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Guests can see lappet-faced vultures at the Tree of Life and black vultures at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Guests can see Ruppell’s Griffon vultures.