Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Glide through the amazing world of vultures to discover why these birds are not only magnificent but misunderstood.
See the birds known as the world’s greatest clean-up crew!
Vultures at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Discover 3 or more vulture species while you’re at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Spot lappet-faced vultures at the Tree of Life and black vultures at Rafiki’s Planet Watch attraction. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, look out for the Rüppell’s griffon vultures. Plus, there’s a really easy way to spot native turkey vultures at Walt Disney World Resort—simply, look up!
Vultures in the Wild
There are 23 species of vultures throughout the world. They live on every continent, except Antarctica, and are split into 2 types: New World vultures and Old World vultures. New World vultures live in North and South America while Old World vultures are found in Europe, Africa and Asia.
Threats to Vultures
Loss of habitats and food supplies, hunting, poisoning, electrocution by electrical wires and collisions with wind turbines—are just some of the worldwide dangers facing these magnificent birds. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists lappet-faced vultures as “endangered” and Rüppell’s griffon vultures as “critically endangered.”
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of vultures and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for vultures and how you can help, too!
“Disney’s Animal Kingdom creates an incredible experience where you’re really engaging with animals and conservation. You walk away feeling a special connection with animals and nature.” – Djuan Rivers, VP Disney’s Animal Kingdom park
Discover why the vulture population is rapidly declining and how Disney's animal care experts are helping to save them.
Vultures are scavengers that eat dead animals. When vultures eat dead animals that were given a veterinary drug called diclofenac, the vultures are poisoned and die. In Asia, the drug diclofenac is widely given to livestock to reduce inflammation and pain. This has brought the Asian vulture species to near extinction. In Africa, farmers poison carnivores they believe harm their livestock. This has brought the African vulture species into drastic decline. Worldwide, the increased use of agriculture pesticides has also led to the poisoning of vultures.
The Influence of Humans
Vultures are electrocuted by power lines, killed by wind turbines, hunted and their habitat and food sources are dwindling due to human expansion. Some cultures hunt vultures to use them for traditional medicine. Some poachers lace their discarded carcasses with cheap poisons to kill vultures in mass. Why? Because vultures circling in the sky alert wildlife authorities to the location of their illegal activities.
Disney Is Helping Vultures in the Wild
Since 1995, the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has directed more than $70 million to save wildlife and protect the planet, inspiring millions of people to take action for nature in their communities. DCF support has helped nonprofit organizations in Africa and Asia raise community awareness of the importance of vultures to ecosystems. As a result of DCF efforts, local organizations are able to train local people in the monitoring and protection of vulture populations, reducing common threats such as certain veterinary drugs for livestock that are poisonous to vultures.
Uncover fascinating facts about the vulture species living at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos)
They’re the largest vulture in Africa and have a wingspan reaching up to 9 feet (2.7 m) long. With one of the largest beaks of all birds of prey, they can tear into the thick hide of large animals, even a buffalo’s. Known as the “king of vultures,” you can find them at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.
Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppellii)
Native to north central Africa and named after the 19th-century German explorer Eduard Rüppell, these vultures like to stay in groups. They nest on open cliff ledges in colonies that have up to 1,000 breeding pairs. Known for their lifelong bonding and social characteristics, this type of vulture can be found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
They can be found throughout the United States, southern Canada, Central America and South America. They’re born with a dark gray head that changes to reddish-pink as they mature. Instead of building nests, they lay eggs (usually 2 at a time) on the ground in a dense brush or in hollow logs. Thousands of these vultures migrate to South America for the winter.
Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
American black vultures are native to the southeastern part of the United States, all the way south to almost the tip of South America. This species is smaller than turkey vultures and are known for not being greedy eaters. They share food with their family and feed their young for months, even after they have left the nest.
Did you know they play an important role in the ecosystem, have “special powers” and are pretty darn smart?
Vultures are Earth’s caretakers and keep the planet clean. By eating dead animals, they prevent piles of dead or decomposing animals from spreading diseases that could be harmful to people and other wildlife.
Stomach Acid That Can Melt Metal
Vultures are able to eat meat in any stage of decay and are not affected by diseases that would kill other animals. This is because of their extremely corrosive stomach acid. A vulture’s stomach acid has about the same pH as battery acid. Vultures can even dissolve metal in their stomachs. Thanks to this incredible adaptation, vultures are able to kill viruses, such as rabies and bacteria, including cholera and anthrax.
Bald Is Powerful
Most vulture species are bald and it’s like a “special power” to help them with hygiene. When vultures reach inside a dead animal, their baldness prevents harmful bacteria from building up on their head which could lead to infection.
Gliding in the Sky
Vultures circling in the air are not circling their prey. They are actually gliding on warm air currents. These thermal air currents allow vultures to soar slowly in tight circles for hours as they search for dead animals. Vultures are able to spot dead animals from 4 miles (6.4 km) away while gliding in the sky—an impressive “special power”!
Crack It Open
Certain vultures are able to use tools to get their food, making them pretty smart among other birds. The Egyptian vulture breaks open ostrich eggs by dropping stones on them. Bearded vultures carry bones up into the air and drop them onto rocky areas to break them open; the birds then fly down to eat the nutritionally rich marrow inside.
A preconception about vultures is that they’re dirty. It’s not true. They’ll even pause during a meal to clean themselves. These smart vultures use grass, rocks and other surrounding items as a napkin to clean their faces and beaks. The sun is another useful way vultures clean themselves because the sun can bake off any bacteria leftover from a meal.
Learn how making a commitment to the environment can make a difference.
Be the clean-up crew in your community. Pick up trash and recycle so habitats are healthy for the wildlife that depends on them.
Get Outdoors and Spread the News
Go bird watching with family and friends. Share what you have learned about vultures playing a major part in our ecosystem and the great dangers they face.
You can make a big difference for vultures by volunteering your time or contributing financially to organizations, like the Disney Conservation Fund, that support research and community conservation efforts.*
*The Disney Conservation Fund is supported by The Walt Disney Company and Guests of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, with 100% of Guest contributions matched by Disney and directed to nonprofit organizations. Additionally, Disney covers all costs of managing the fund. The Disney Conservation Fund is not a charitable organization, and donations are not deductible as charitable contributions for U.S. tax purposes.
Visit the Websites Below
The Walt Disney Company is committed to protecting the planet and using resources wisely. We conserve nature and inspire kids and families to join us in caring for the planet. Explore the websites below to see how Disney is helping to make the world a better place—and learn about the many creative ways you can make a difference, too!
“Conservation isn’t just the business of a few people; it’s a matter that concerns all of us. If we will use our riches wisely, if we will protect our wildlife, and preserve our lakes and streams, these things will last us for generations to come.” – Walt Disney