We will be closing the vulture restaurant from today until the first rains come. Past experience has proven that the risk of an anthrax outbreak* is greatly reduced (if not eliminated entirely) once weâ€™ve had our first good spring rain. Even though there have been no cases of anthrax reported in the Kruger National Park area this year, every year we decide to err on the side of caution and close the restaurant anyway.
What is the Vulture Restaurant?
At HESC nothing goes to waste! Once our resident predators have eaten their fill, we then collect the remaining bones and carcasses and deposit them in the ‘Vulture Restaurant’ for the various raptors that frequent the neighbourhood to enjoy. This area attracts mostly White-backed and Hooded vultures, although the Lappet-faced vulture, Cape Griffon, Marabou stork and Bateleur eagle also drop in fairly regularly.
Once the bones have been picked clean, we take them to a bone miller where they ground and sprinkled over the animals’ meat for added calcium. Visiting this unusual eatery is one of the many highlights guests can enjoy when visiting the Centre, but due to the possibility of an anthrax outbreak* at this time of year, we’ve taken the precaution of closing the ‘Vulture Restaurant’ until the first spring rains. We’ll let you know as soon as we’ve reopened it.
What is Anthrax?
*Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease can be lethal, and it affects both humans and animals. There are effective vaccines against anthrax, and some forms of the disease respond well to antibiotic treatment.
Like many other members of the genus Bacillus, Bacillus anthracis can form dormant endospores (often referred to as “spores” for short, but not to be confused with fungal spores) that are able to survive in harsh conditions for decades or even centuries. Such spores can be found on all continents, even Antarctica. When spores are inhaled, ingested, or come into contact with a skin lesion on a host, they may become reactivated and multiply rapidly.
Anthrax commonly infects wild and domesticated herbivorous mammals that ingest or inhale the spores while grazing. Ingestion is thought to be the most common route by which herbivores contract anthrax. Carnivores living in the same environment may become infected by consuming infected animals. Diseased animals can spread anthrax to humans, either by direct contact (e.g., inoculation of infected blood to broken skin) or by consumption of a diseased animal’s flesh.