秃鹫:生态系统中用胃酸驱赶传染病的英雄 Kenny Coogan: Vultures: The acid-puking, plague-busting heroes of the ecosystem

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演员: Kenny Coogan

In the grasslands of Mauritania,
a gazelle suffering from tuberculosis takes its last breath.
一只患结核病的瞪羚 呼出了它最后一口气,
Collapsing near a small pool,
the animal’s corpse threatens to infect the water.
But for the desert’s cleanup crew, this body isn’t a problem: it’s a feast.
但是对于沙漠里清洁工, 这不是问题,而是美餐。
Weighing up to 10 kilograms
体重可达 10 千克,
and possessing a wingspan of nearly 3 meters,
翼幅接近 3 米,
the lappet-faced vulture is the undisputed king of the carcass.
肉垂秃鹫可以说是 当之无愧的死尸之王。
This bird’s powerful beak and strong neck
easily tear through tough hide and muscle tissue,
opening entry points for weaker vultures to dig in.
打开了一个开口 使得更弱小的秃鹫能够享用。
This colossal competition is too dangerous for the tiny Egyptian vulture.
With a wingspan of only 180 centimeters,
对于体型较小的 埃及秃鹫来说太危险了。
this vulture migrated to Africa from his family nest in Portugal,
埃及秃鹫翼幅仅有 180 厘米,
using thermal updrafts to stay aloft for hours at a time.
But upon arrival, he finds himself near the bottom of the pecking order.
利用上升热气流来使自己 一次可以维持飞行好几个小时。
Fortunately, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in intelligence.
A short distance away, he spots an unguarded ostrich nest,
它就发现自己在啄食 顺序中几乎排名最后。
full of immense, but impenetrable eggs.
幸运的是,它的智慧 弥补了它体型上的缺陷。
Using a large rock, he smashes one open for a well-earned meal—
不远处,它发现了 一个没有保护的鸵鸟巢,
though he’ll circle back to the gazelle once the larger birds are gone.
High above the commotion are Ruppell’s Griffon vultures.
它用一块巨石打碎了一只蛋 作为一顿应得的美餐——
Soaring at an altitude of over 11,000 meters,
尽管那些大鸟走后 它还会绕回到瞪羚旁。
these birds fly higher than any other animal.
At this height, they can’t see individual carcasses.
翱翔在海拔 11,000 米的高空,
But the sight of their fellow vultures guides them to the feeding.
Their featherless heads help them regulate
在这样的高度, 它们看不见单个的尸体。
the sudden rise in temperature as they descend—
但是它们秃鹫同胞们的身影 带着他们到了有食物的地方。
and keep them clean as they tear into the decaying gazelle.
The carcass is stripped clean in hours,
well before the rotting meat infects the water supply.
还可以在它们撕扯 腐烂的瞪羚时保持清洁。
And the tuberculosis doesn’t stand a chance at infecting the vultures.
瞪羚的残骸在几小时内 就被吃干净了,
These birds have evolved the lowest gastric pH in the animal kingdom,
allowing them to digest diseased carrion and waste without becoming sick.
In fact, species like the mountain-dwelling bearded vulture
这些秃鹫已经演化出了 动物界酸碱度最低的胃酸,
have stomachs so acidic,
这使得它们可以消化 病变的腐肉和排泄物而不生病。
they can digest most bones in just 24 hours.
This adaptation helps smaller vultures supplement their diet with dung,
while larger vultures can consume diseased meat up to 3 days old.
以至于它们可以在 24 小时内 消化绝大多数的骨头。
Their acidic stomachs protect them from living animals too:
这种适应使得体型小的秃鹫 吃动物粪便来补充食物,
their rancid vomit scares off most predators.
而更大的秃鹫可以 消化病死三天的腐肉。
These stomachs of steel are essential to removing pathogens like cholera,
它们的胃酸也保护它们 不受活物的威胁:
anthrax, and rabies from the African ecosystem.
它们令人作呕的呕吐物 能吓跑大部分的捕食者。
But while vultures can easily digest natural waste,
它们钢铁般的胃对于去除 非洲生态系统中的霍乱弧菌、
man-made chemicals are another story.
炭疽杆菌和狂犬病毒等 病原体来说十分重要。
Diclofenac, a common veterinary drug used to treat cattle in India,
尽管秃鹫可以轻易地 消化自然界的废物,
is fatal to vultures.
And because local religious beliefs prohibit eating beef,
双氯芬酸——一种在印度 常见的用于治疗家牛的兽用药
scavengers often consume cattle carcasses.
Since the 1990s, the drug,
along with threats from electricity pylons and habitat loss,
has contributed to a 95% decline in the region’s vulture population.
从 1990 年代,这种药物
In nearby Africa, poachers intentionally poison carcasses
和其他威胁, 从高压电线塔到栖息地的缩减,
to prevent the birds’ presence from alerting authorities to their location.
导致了这一区域 秃鹫数量下降了 95%。
One poisoned carcass can kill over 500 vultures.
在邻近的非洲, 偷猎者故意在尸体里投毒
Today, more than 50% of all vulture species are endangered.
来防止这些秃鹫的出现 把他们所处的位置暴露给当局 。
In regions where vultures have gone extinct,
一具有毒的尸体 可以杀死超过 500 只秃鹫。
corpses take three times longer to decay.
当下,超过 50% 的秃鹫物种濒临灭绝。
These carcasses contaminate drinking water,
while feral dogs and rats carry the diseases into human communities.
The Asian and African Vulture Crisis has led to an epidemic of rabies in India,
where infections kill roughly 20,000 people each year.
然后野狗和老鼠 把这些疾病带到居民区。
Fortunately, some communities have already realized how important vultures are.
亚洲和非洲的秃鹫危机 已经造成了狂犬病在印度的流行,
Conservationists have successfully banned drugs like Diclofenac,
“双氯芬酸——一种在印度常见的 用于治疗家牛的兽用药” 在印度后断开更好一些。
while other researchers are working to repopulate vulture communities
幸运的是,一些地方 已经意识到了秃鹫的重要性。
through breeding programs.
环保主义者已经成功地禁止了 双氯芬酸等药物的使用,
Some regions have even opened vulture restaurants
与此同时,另一些研究者 在通过繁殖方案
where farmers safely dispose of drug-free livestock.
With help, vultures will be able to continue their role
conserving the health of our planet— transforming death and decay into life.