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The Kabini Waste Disposal Corporation

Long-billed Vulture, Kabini -

In the grasslands of Kabini, which boast some of the world’s largest concentration of herbivores and their predators, the one constant of life…is death. Here, where the various roles in the food chain are played out unerringly on a daily basis, the consequence of such a well stocked larder is a large proportion of leftovers. With such a ready availability of fresh meat, predators don’t fuss themselves about picking their plates clean, and carcasses are mostly left half-eaten on their plates (they’ve obviously not had to deal with strict moms like the rest of us, and that bane of childhood called table manners). While leftover meat-on-the-hoof is a clear indication of the health of the population, it could also have an adverse effect. This is where the super efficient air-borne corps of the Waste Disposal Corporation comes into the picture. The Long-billed Vulture of Kabini is perhaps the least celebrated, yet most important member, of the food chain, for he is the one who disposes off the leftovers and ensures that disease and epidemics don’t spread from the rotting corpses. Feeding exclusively on carrion, mostly cattle remains, these ‘bald men’ of the forest are themselves endangered now. The principal reason for the alarming depredation of their number is, ironically, the very meat they consume. These vultures are vulnerable to the same drugs used to treat livestock, and often contract a fatal kidney disease after eating contaminated meat. This is a huge concern to the authorities as a dwindling vulture population could lead to debilitating epidemics sweeping across Kabini, as the carrion would rot and putrefy without their intervention. Captive breeding programmes, and ‘Vulture Restaurants’ have been set up in some places to provide uncontaminated carcasses, and hopefully these much maligned birds will thrive again and cleanse the ecosystem of all its detritus.



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