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Why Raptors

Controlling agricultural pests

Many of the more than 300 species of predatory raptors--the hawks, eagles, and falcons of the world--consume large numbers of insects and rodents, including many that are agricultural pests, helping to control pest numbers and support the production of local agricultural products without the use of pesticides.

Nutrient recycling and disease control

Scavenging non-predatory raptors, including vultures, consume dead animals, helping to recycle nutrients and other essential biological materials back into ecosystems, as well as helping to remove disease-causing organisms that cause botulism and anthrax.  Without vultures, which find carcasses more quickly than do mammalian scavengers, populations of feral dogs increase, thereby increasing the threat of rabies.

Early-warning signals

As top predators, raptor populations are one the first to respond to environmental problems, including toxic contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals that can negatively affect humans.  As such raptor populations serve as low-cost early-warning signals, or “environmental sentinels” in both natural and human-dominated environments.

Cultural symbols    

 For thousands of years humans have revered birds of prey and scavengers as ecological entities whose very existence symbolizes both the many benefits and power of natural environments.

 

Threats to raptors

The world can be a dangerous place for raptors.  Human threats include land-use change, which can eliminate nesting areas and feeding sites; environmental toxins, including pesticides, heavy metals, and other biologically active chemicals; and direct human persecution, which can be especially problematic when large numbers of raptor congregate on flyways while migrating.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists species 101 of the world’s 323 raptors, or 31% of all species globally, as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Threatened, or Near Threatened.  Vultures, in particular, are at high risk, with 73% of the world’s 22 species currently listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Threatened, or Near Threatened.

Cozen O'Connor