American black vultures used to identify rubbish concentrations in Lima, Peru

 

A project led by the Peruvian environment ministry, with financial support from USAID, has equipped 10 American black vultures with video cameras and satellite trackers to try to identify rubbish hot spots in the Peruvian capital.

 

American back vultures – called gallinazos in Peru – are common scavengers in many South American cities, where they feast on scraps of food in rubbish dumps. Often associated with dirt, these much-maligned carrion-eaters provide a great sanitary service, disposing of lots of organic rests that would otherwise add to the enormous trash problem that many cities face across South America. Lima has only four landfills in a city of nearly 10 million inhabitants, so there are countless illegal dumps.

 

A fifth of the rubbish ends up not collected, according to the environment ministry. Run-off from the waste contaminates Lima’s main water source, the Rimac river, as well as with the Chillon and Lurin rivers, which flow into the bay of Lima.

 

In this project the vulture’s movements are then shared with the municipalities. The project aims to encourage citizens to be “vultures on the ground”: to report trash dumping, cut back on their own waste, and recycle.

 

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