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Vultures Needed for Tradition to Survive

on 2001/3/5 8:49:02 ( 1403 reads )


BOMBAY, INDIA, March 1, 2001: Parsis, descendants of the ancient Persians and followers of the prophet Zoroaster, have an ancient way of disposing of their dead in the city of Bombay. On Malabar Hill and the tranquil park at Doongerwadi, Parsi followers bring their dead to be devoured by vultures. Bodies that have been exposed to the sun and eaten by scavengers ensures that no pollution takes place and that all are equal in death. However this traditional way of disposing of their dead is being threatened. In 1988, 350 pairs of vultures nested in the park. Due to an infectious disease which has reduced the population of vultures to a mere dozen, the situation has escalated to a crisis. The Bombay Parsi council has collaborated with scientists to build an aviary so that vultures can be bred in captivity. The project will take at least four years to get off the ground. In the meantime, the Parsis are left wondering how to dispose of their dead. Many bodies are left to decompose in the tropical sun. At least 1,000 bodies are placed annually in the Tower of Silence and there are simply not enough vultures to uphold the tradition. They are considering switching to cremation.

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