December 1, 2012

Bringing Vultures Back

Giving New Life to Vultures to Restore a Human Ritual of Death

MUMBAI, India — Fifteen years after vultures disappeared from Mumbai’s skies, the Parsi community here intends to build two aviaries at one of its most sacred sites so that the giant scavengers can once again devour human corpses.
---
“Without the vultures, more and more Parsis are choosing to be cremated,” Mr. Mehta said. “I have to bring back the vultures so the system is working again, especially during the monsoon.”

The plan is the result of six years of negotiations between Parsi leaders and the Indian government to revive a centuries-old practice that seeks to protect the ancient elements — air, earth, fire and water — from being polluted by either burial or cremation. And along the way, both sides hope the effort will contribute to the revival of two species of vulture that are nearing extinction. The government would provide the initial population of birds.

The cost of building the aviaries and maintaining the vultures is estimated at $5 million spread over 15 years, much less expensive than it would have been without the ready supply of food.
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 1, 2012 11:05 AM | Permalink