Episode Summary:

Today’s episode of the podcast is a continuation of this month’s theme of vulture conservation across the globe. Our guest is PhD candidate at the University of Utah, Evan Buechley. Evan has worked with vultures on three continents and is currently focused on the research and conservation of the Egyptian vulture, a highly intelligent and truly fascinating species.

We also have another edition of the Birds and the Beats on today’s show, so we’ll be checking in with Ben Mirin and learning about a different group of African animals that is facing similarly dramatic population declines: the lemurs of Madagascar. Ben has a new beat for us which features some of the bizarre, yet beautiful vocalizations of these lemurs.

In our interview with Evan Buechley, we start off with a big picture perspective on vulture conservation. Evan worked for several years with the endangered California condor, and is now working with vultures in both North Africa and the Middle East. We talk about some of the similarities and differences between these New and Old World vultures, and discuss why it is that vulture populations are facing threats all across the world.

Evan Buechley attaches a transmitter to an Egyptian vulture.

Evan Buechley attaches a transmitter to an Egyptian vulture.

We then delve into Evan’s research on the Egyptian vulture, a relatively small-bodied vulture species that has played an important cultural role throughout early human history in the Middle East and North Africa. The Egyptian vulture is also extremely intelligent, and is one of the few animals species that uses tools! Despite their intelligence, Egyptian vultures have been declining at an alarming rate across their range in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Evan talks about some of the causes of these declines, and what steps can be taken to alleviate them.

In addition to Evan’s work with the Egyptian vulture, he is also interested in learning more about vulture populations across Ethiopia. Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous country, yet despite this its vulture populations remain extremely robust. One of Evan’s goals is to find out why vultures are doing so well here despite the high human population and the loss of much of the area’s large mammals. We learn about Evan’s investigations into waste dumps within Addis Ababa, one of Africa’s largest cities, and how many endangered avian scavengers can be found feeding on carcasses within city limits!

Evan also shares some ideas on how folks can help protect vultures. Donating to organizations that are playing a critical role in vulture conservation efforts is his first suggestion. Evan has just launched a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign to support his research in Turkey and Ethiopia, which means that you can contribute directly to this important project! Check out Evan’s campaign now and show your support for vulture conservation by making a donation of any amount.

There are also a number of things that you can do to protect vultures in your own backyard, and the first is switching to non-lead ammunition. If you are a hunter there is really no excuse for using lead-based ammo – get the facts and make the switch. If you have friends or family that hunt talk to them about this important issue. You may not convince them right off the bat, but start the conversation and show them the evidence. Lead poisoning is the leading cause of mortality for the endangered California condor, but it is also impacting other scavenging species all across the globe, including Egyptian vulture populations in Europe. Check out our feature length film about this issue, Scavenger Hunt, and use it as a resource to convince others to make the switch!


Contribute to Evan Buechley’s Egyptian vulture research in Turkey and Ethiopia!

Scavenger Hunt – our feature length film about California condors and lead poisoning

The Birds and the Beats – listen to the full song from this week’s episode!

Collaborating organizations on Evan’s research:

KuzeyDoga – Turkish collaborator

Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

Other groups working to conserve vultures:

The Peregrine Fund

Vulture Conservation Foundation


International Vulture Awareness Day

Listen to the podcast here:

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