Relation to human
The Egyptian vulture has lived close by mankind from the beginnings of history. It is celebrated in many tales and legends, and is considered sacred in many cultures. Today, however, there is only a vague echo of its fame. The future of the species is uncertain, and its silhouette gradually fades away from our memories. The ancient Egyptians revered it as a sacred being and even gave it a special hieroglyph in their writing. It was considered the symbol of Isis, goddess of fertility, motherhood and magic. She was often depicted with spread wings. Back in ancient times the Egyptian vultures nested on the pyramids in Giza but today your only chance to see them there is as hieroglyphs on the stone walls. Another artefact found in Egypt is a bronze figurine of the Ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite with a hat in the form of an Egyptian vulture. The bird is represented on many statues and fountains still found in the Afitos region on the Halkidiki Peninsula in Greece. It was celebrated also as a herald of spring much in the same way as we celebrate the arrival of storks and swallows today. This marks it as a species which has always existed in a close relation with man.
Photo: Dimitar Demerdzhiev
Older Muslims from the Eastern Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria still recall the legend of the ‘akbuba’, or ‘the white father’, who rescued Muhammad from the claws of the golden eagle. To express his gratitude the prophet gave it eternal life and endowed it with its white plumage – a symbol of purity and bravery. Thus the white sage made its nest in the hearts of many peoples across the continents. A temple in Tirukalukundram, India, is famous with the pair of vultures which come to nest here for centuries. Every day before noon the birds come to the temple to receive a daily gift of food from the monks. The holy men believe that if they do not show up in time there is a sinner among their midst who has to redeem their sins. The Egyptian vulture is praised and revered on Socotra Island too. There it walks undisturbed on the village streets among the crowd. In many places in Africa the vultures are not disturbed by human presence and unfortunately this can have fatal consequences. In some African countries vulture body parts are used in traditional medicine, or serve as amulets against black magic, and this leads to a mass extermination. Today the bird of the pharaohs, once revered on three continents, faces extinction. Soon the only memory of its impressive silhouette would be a shadow of the past.