Sharing cities with avian scavengers: sustainable development in social-ecological systems [post]

Urvi Gupta, Nishant Kumar
2021 unpublished
Correlations in the timings of vulture collapse and rapid urbanisation in South Asia have affected the benefit trade-offs concerning conservation-breeding for vulture restoration. We show how the loss of vultures 30 years ago has led to the extinction of experience amongst people in South Asia who are co-adapted to various animal species within shared landscapes. We conducted ethnography that focused on avian scavengers (vultures, kites and crows) in Delhi to unpack how salience and charisma
more » ... avian scavengers link with socio-cultural legends. Perceptions about avian scavengers were based on birds' appearance, behaviour, and ecosystem services. Anthropomorphisation mediated human-animal co-adaptation and drove ritual feeding of commensals that opportunistically consume garbage. Conflated with ethnoecology, such human-constructed niches supported enormous animal populations in the region and drove mutual tolerance. Prior evaluations of scavengers' niche from biophysical perspectives alone have, therefore, overlooked links between vultures and animal husbandry practices. It undermined competitive release on commensals that have responded by an increase in numbers and distribution, by taking advantage of ritual feeding and people's affiliative attitudes. The absence of vultures limits the availability of spaces where animal husbandry can be practised. Conversely, expanding built-up spaces, overhead wires, fake news, and interference from competing scavengers will be impediments to vulture restoration. Conservation policies should examine immediate and long-term objectives of solid waste disposal, considering the odds against the attainment of the yesteryear functional ecology of vultures in South Asia. We conclude that wildlife restoration in urbanising tropical landscapes is a moving target, necessitating policies sensitive to progressive loss and/or changes in associative heritage due to shifting economic and cultural practices.
doi:10.21203/ fatcat:sk3xg5vg65gefalqfmzsk7yffy