Vultures are such reviled creatures that English speakers have turned their very name into a synonym for despicable people. Nobody wants to be a vulture; nobody even wants to think about them. And yet, as this emotional three-minute video shows, we should care—because vultures might not be around for much longer:
In the video British wildlife photographer Charlie Hamilton James details the plight of the modern vulture, which is largely endangered due to its popularity as an ingredient in indigenous African medicines.
James had signed on to shoot the birds for National Geographic, but he constantly ran into trouble—the creatures are shy and paranoid, and detest unknown objects or creatures near their prey. James tried stuffing dead carcasses with a Canon 50D and some reconfigured GoPros before grabbing his prize shot with a Lumix GX7 mirrorless camera—though he had to rush in and drop the camera into a feeding frenzy in order to grab it.
As James wrote in his explanation on how he pulled off this photo shoot:
“This is the shot I want. It has everything—action, aggression, nice light, perfect framing. It tells you how vultures live together, how they feed, where they live. The rib cage winds out of frame perfectly, and the main vulture has its beak open. The aggressive foot coming in is perfect, and a wing frames the top of the image. You can even see a marabou stork and a vulture quietly waiting their turn. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more serendipitous frame.”
Ultimately, these remarkable photographs are capturing something much more important than vultures’ lives—they capture a moment in nature that may not last much longer.
“They’re wonderful creatures, and we’re killing them at such an extraordinary rate, they’re probably going to be extinct in five, ten years.”
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