Outfitted with GoPros and solar-powered GPS trackers, the crew of carrion-loving vigilantes is sniffing out illegal dumps in Lima.
They may be the unlikeliest heroes put to work in the name of the environment, but there they are. Captain Huggin, Captain Phoenix, Captain Aella and a crew of seven more trained black vultures (Coragyps atratus) that have been tasked with doing what they do best: sniffing out rubbage.
But specifically, rather than doing what vultures usually do – circle ominously over dying things or delicately pluck intestines from roadkill – this high-tech team patrols the skies of Lima, Peru on the lookout for illegal trash disposal.
If that sounds odd, consider this. Dan Collyns explains in The Guardian that the city of 10 million people has just four landfills … and countless illegal dumps. “A fifth of the rubbish ends up there, according to the environment ministry,” Collyns notes. “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.” With 8,000 tons of trash created a day, it’s really quite a mess.
So armed with GoPros and solar-powered GPS trackers – which look small enough to be unbotrusive – the Peruvian kettle* of vultures soars above the city; the images they capture are streamed back to headquarters and any illegal dumps they discover are logged, explains Smithsonian Magazine.
"Vultures are our allies in the reduction of organic waste," project director Javier Hernandez tells the Agence France-Presse. "In their search for food, what they're really doing is identifying places where there is organic matter and garbage. We're using that ... to get the GPS coordinates and monitor these sites."
“We share the vulture’s GPS coordinates with the municipalities,” says Hernandez. “It’s their job to collect the rubbish and to try and change the habits of their residents.”
"On one hand, pestilence and disease are hidden among the filth,” one of our vulture heroes says. “On the other hand, humanity is placidly ignoring the danger that threatens."
I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely on Team Vulture.
For more on the project, visit Gallinazo Avisa.
* Bonus arcane trivia for the day! The term kettle means a groups of vultures in flight. Committee, volt, or venue refer to vultures resting in trees. Wake is used for a group of vultures that are feeding.