Gamblers Smoking Vulture Brains for Good Luck

two vultures photo
Migrated Image

In Africa, vultures are facing the threat of extinction from an unlikely source--gamblers who want to smoke their brains. Some people believe that inhaling the smoke from the burning vulture brain will give them insight into the future, which will help them place wiser bets. And, with increased gambling around the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, environmentalist groups fear that the practice may be on the rise.There is a traditional belief that the vultures' adeptness in finding prey is a product of a magical ability to see into the future--and that they too will possess it if they smoke the creature's brain. The brains are dried and rolled into cigarettes, reports The Guardian.

This practice has already taken a heavy toll on vulture species: seven of the nine species of vulture are rated endangered. The birds are usually shot or poisoned--it's reported that some poachers even poison other animals, so that when the vulture eats them it falls victim too.

Steve McKean, of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife:

Traditional use as it is currently happening is likely to render vultures extinct in southern Africa on its own within 20 to 30 years.

The number of vultures being killed for this 'magical' purpose is in the thousands. One survey conducted in 2007 estimates that 1,000 birds a year are killed just in Tanzania.

Andre Botha, from the Endangered Wildlife Trust in South Africa:

People believe it's foresight and this finds fertile ground in people's imagination. If it worked for the lottery, everyone would use it and we'd have a lot of millionaires walking around today. There is a lot of betting in South Africa. So we may see an increase connected to gambling around the 2010 World Cup.