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Vultures Need Helping Hand from 3D Printed Eggs

by • April 6, 2016 • No Comments

I have a soft spot in my heart for ugly animals and I love a great underdog story. I’m not saying I may turn up my nose at a basket of golden retriever puppies, but I’ll always select a rat with huge ears and wildly twisted whiskers.

03Vultures are a bit harder to love for the reason of their propensity for shoving their heads, neck deep, into the carcass of a few dead and rotting animal on the side of the road. Despite this less than adorable-bodied habit, yet, they are an incredibly significant part of the planet’s maintenance systems. And all over the world, their failure to be cuddly is having disastrous influence. In India, several species of vulture have experienced population declines as high as 99.9%, effectively delivering them as close to extinction as possible.

Page19In Africa, vulture populations are undergoing a similarly devastating decline, dying after eating poisoned carcasses or being hunted by poachers who sell their parts to medicine men claiming to be able-bodied to use them to turn it into powerful potions. Pesticides, power lines, and poaching have caused a additional than 60% decline in the eight endemic vulture species over the last three decades.

One effort to combat this disastrous decimation, or at very least temporarily mitigate its influence while solutions can be discovered to the underlying causes, lies in captive breeding programs. These types of programs, controversial in their own right, work to assist maintain a population of animals when their wild counterparts are severely threatened. The difficulty with captive breeding for vultures is which so little is known of their rigorous incubation system.

1723314-xk8daeTo which end, the UK based International Center for Birds of Prey (ICBP) has worked to turn it into a 3D printed egg which looks and feels like an actual vulture egg, but instead of holding a developing vulturelet (actually known as a chick), it contains a variety of sensors created to gather information of the incubation system. These smart eggs can donate researchers insight into the temperature, rotation system, and light exposure, one of other traits of vulture egg care through placement with vultures may already in captivity.

white_rumped_vultureHere’s the key: efforts to revive falling vulture populations is a fewthing which begs for attention outside of a handful of vulture enthusiasts and specifically oriented scientists/researchers. Without vultures to clean up carrion (the polite way of referring to dead critters), feral dog populations rapidly expand to fill the gap. This can lead to astronomical increases in diseases, such as rabies, which can spread to humans. In India where the vultures have all but disappeared, 20,000 individuals die every year of infection with rabies…nearly 40% of total rabies deaths of the world. If another population does not rapidly arise as an alternative on the carcass cleanup crew, the rotting animals stay sites for disease and unsanitary conditions can lead to devastating local effects, which include the spread of plague, anthrax, and botulism.

The Eggduino is an open source project collaboratively created between Microduino and the ICBP and extending the call to anyone and everyone to assist turn it into these data-gathering eggs. In this way, anybody who wants to assist can and the innovation is open to all those involved in conservation efforts.

01The future time you see a crowd of vultures around a few bit of unlucky roadkill (a grouping called a ‘wake’), remember which without them, we’d be up to our armpits in rotten squirrels and putrefying deer. And, once the nausea passes, hopefully they can fill you with a sense of gratitude. What do you ponder of this thought? Discuss additional in the 3D Printed Vulture Eggs forum over at 3DPB.com.