Around the World in 80 Days - Day 23
Phileas Fogg has arrived in Kolkata (though at the time it would have been called Calcutta), and is ready to head back out onto the water.
I've painted other vultures from India before, and these have the same story realy. The Indian Vulture's numbers had plummeted 97% in just 10 years. For them, as with some of the other vultures, the main culprit was diclofenac (an NSAID) which was given to cows because it was inexpensive and effective. Unfortunately, while helpful for keeping the cattle alive, any of them who did not survive would be essential death traps for the vultures. A group of vultures feeding on a carcass is called a wake. If they are in flight it is called a kettle, and when just hanging out as a group they are called either a committee, volt, or a venue. A wake could clean a cow carcass in 20 minutes. I saw an old picture showing a committee of vultures, I think outside an abattoir, and it was incredible how many there were. You could easily imagine a butcher chucking out the waste at the end of the day, and all of it just being cleaned up in a matter of a few minutes. To give you an idea how common they were, there are about 30,000 of them now. Remember, that is after 97% of their numbers died off! When the vultures began to vanish, rats and feral dog numbers increased to fill the gap. Even with their populations exploding, they still could not keep up with the work the vultures had once done. Also, the vulture's system doesn't allow many of the diseases to survive that did just fine in the dog and rat systems. Because of that, the risk of rabies and other diseases also increased, also the number of rotting carcasses. These are a medium sized vulture, with a wingspan of almost 8 feet. They nest on cliffs in groups of pairs, sometimes even 20 pairs because they are a social bird.
I decided to do this composition because for one thing, I didn't want one similar to the other similar bird paintings I've done. The main reason though is because I know that seeing a completely bald head makes people instantly think how ugly the bird is. It also reminds them that the bird eats dead things which is somehow worse than birds who kill what they eat. That ick factor can make it so people don't see the beauty in these incredible birds. Honestly, I can see beauty in almost any animal. Yeah, it is a lot more difficult with some animals (spiders), but even animals I don't like have their own beauty. I still threaten to go to the store and ask for salmon that is leftover and possibly going off, and then taking it out to the middle of nowhere. Supposedly that is about the best way to attract a turkey vulture. I loved being able to be up close and photograph one at the zoo, and I apologize if I've already shared this picture I took. I would much prefer to take a picture of them in the wild though.