Monday, April 19, 2010
Superstition And Ignorance Driving Vultures Extinct In SA
Superstitions develop in all kinds of cultures
And ignorance, too, inextricably linked
The latest rendition is bad for the vultures
Where betting on football could make them extinct
South Africa, hosting the World Cup this season
Has vultures of various beautiful kinds
"The wisest of animals"--this is the reason
Some ignorant gamblers have plain lost their minds
For the sake of advantage, the vultures are hunted--
In gambling, you need any edge you can get--
Their brains, dried and powdered, are all that is wanted;
They're snorted, for luck, before placing a bet
With so many people so desperate for money
And looking for help, to see which teams to choose
It's tragic as hell--if it weren't, it'd be funny
In a hunt for good fortune, the vultures will lose
South Africa's vultures are magnificent birds. There are some eight different species (I think I saw six while I was there), which coexist in complementary roles--our guides used the vultures to locate carcasses (as did other scavengers, of course), where we might get a glimpse of something spectacular (here we see cheetahs, but from quite a distance--they were driven off by hyenas later).
The BBC reports that the World Cup and its associated betting may actually drive vulture species extinct in South Africa (video at link, and well worth watching). Superstition holds that these wise birds have the power to predict the future... and so of course they are killed, and their brains extracted, dried, and powdered for use in prognostication. One wonders if the users have thought through the implications of using the brains of a bird that did not see its own demise coming at their hands... perhaps that is why it isn't working.
All photos by Cuttlefish.