Each animal, from the most elegant to the most gruesome, performs a specific task in the food chain, a piece of a delicate balance between life and death. Vultures stand out as the perfect emblem of the regeneration and rebirth of the ecological cycle. For the Parsis, ancient inhabitants of Central Asia, this role is played literally, in fact, far from the villages, in the sunny expanses at the foot of cliffs and mountain ridges, they erect their characteristic Towers of Silence, raised cemeteries where to lay the dead and await the arrival of the Vultures.
Nephron percnopterus (CR critically endangered IUCN redlist) is the smallest vulture in the Old World. We can consider four different communities of vultures in which the individual species each play a different role without being in competition with each other. In Europe, for example, it happens that the monk vulture (Aegypius monachus), equipped with a robust beak, is the first to attack the most consistent parts of the still fresh carcass, the griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) uses the soft parts (viscera) and rotting meat, the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), with its pointed beak, ingests remains and fragments of the carcass ignored by other species, the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) has specialized in breaking and swallowing bones. In Africa and Asia the same happens through the work of other communities of different species). This cycle takes on an important ecological function, namely the natural disposal of animal carcasses present in the environment.
Centuries of ignorance and superstition have haunted these animals, extinguishing them in many areas of their range. Currently, the dangers that threaten their survival have multiplied and mainly concern the change in traditional farming techniques, the use of toxic drugs for the care of livestock and the change in the mountain environment. Wind turbines and high voltage pylons are deadly traps, like carcasses stuffed with antibiotics or lead bullets. Major captive breeding and reintroduction efforts are trying to save Italy's most threatened bird of prey!