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It is with great sadness that we read about 45 vultures being poisoned this week, ironically the week after International Vulture Awareness Day. That it happened in neighbouring Mozambique is immaterial. The sun shines, rivers run and vultures fly as they have for centuries: nature does not recognise the compromise of the geo-political boundaries that we have drawn.

Of course, borders and the right protocol around them are important in as far as biosecurity goes. It is vital to keep in check the pests and diseases that rise like shadows from the way we live and farm. Biosecurity guarantees economic sectors, livelihoods and interlocking economies, and is necessary, it goes without saying. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations lists issues like transboundary pests and diseases, exacerbated by our changing weather patterns, as trends that the planet will have to face while its farmers produce food for its 7 billion plus humans (find its The future of food and agriculture: trends and challenges, released this month here).

Vultures are listed as one of the beneficial birds on our “Birds and farming” page. Their digestive systems mean that they can absorb cholera, rabies and prevent disease from spreading, and play a critical role in maintaining the ecological health of the planet. Unfortunately they are one of the fastest declining groups of animals in the world.

In the end, the poisoning of these vultures this week is part of a wider problem. Would that there had been other ways for the human beings who laid out the poisoned meat earn their keep! While we stumble forward and look for solutions, allow me to remember the 45 vultures for whom any enlightenment on our part arrived too late.


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