A Vulture Restaurant is a specific site where carcasses are provided as a source for vultures to feed from. They are unique eaters in that they only feed from the meat of dead animals. Vultures have nearly been driven to extinction because they were thought to be nothing more than disease spreaders. They are however an important part of the natural ecology.
A leading cause in the vultures decline is due to a widely used medicine that farmers give to their livestock. It is lethal to the vulture when they eat the carcass of these animals. Other reasons the numbers have plummeted are due to a decline in habitat and food supply, nest disturbances and collisions with power lines.
Several vulture restaurants have been set up in Lesotho and South Africa to attract the rare Bearded and Cape Vultures. The restaurants allow for a supplement to the bird’s natural food supply. It allows them to feed on safe meat in an undisturbed area. The bones of the carcass are often chipped to allow for maximum calcium and mineral availability.
Farmers have been encouraged to participate in the conservation effort by donating animals that have died of old age or other causes. It is an economical and hygienic way to dispose of their livestock carcasses. Volunteer veterinarians check to ensure the carcass is free of any toxins, then it can be placed at a protected vulture restaurant location. There you go, a la carte vulture style.
On a guided tour into Lesotho (a small country landlocked within South Africa), our driver made a stop to point out a vulture restaurant in the distance. We could see several dark objects on that were cow, bucks and other types of animal carcasses.
The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture mainly inhabits mountainous areas. A drastic decline in the numbers has resulted in a population that is limited to the highlands of Lesotho and the adjacent Maloti-Drakensberg mountains. These fascinating creatures can be viewed at the Golden Gate National Park vulture restaurant, located in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. There is another one in the Phalabowra region. The vulture restaurants provide excellent photographic opportunities and a unique experience for tourists.
Currently vulture restaurants are also operating in Pakistan, India and Cambodia. Each location that provides a place to eat safe food helps to slow down the potential extinction of the species.