I had never seen a vulture before.
Then, on an early-morning safari in Zimbabwe, our guided group came across a large collection (also known as a “committee”) of vultures resting in a patch of trees.
Commonly, the grand prize of a safari is catching a glimpse of the King of Beasts. Panthera Leo. Lion.
Other animals can serve as signals for whether the lion is lying in wait for his prey or has already come and gone, leaving the carcasses to scavengers. Hearing some animal calls that might be interpreted as warnings, our guide hung around for about ten minutes to see if a lion would appear, but none did. At the same time, this committee (or venue or volt) of vultures might have been a signal that they were waiting to scavenge the spoils of a lion’s kill.
After much time had passed, however, we eventually moved on, and we never did see a lion in the wild on that particular outing.
But we did see vultures. A lot of them.
Since returning from Africa, I’ve learned a little bit about vultures. That sometimes they are used for traditional African medicinal purposes. That there are New World Vultures and Old World Vultures, and that these are the Old World kind. That conservation efforts are being made to protect them because of a variety of human practices.
It is entrancing the first time you lay eyes on a creature like that that you’ve grown up hearing about, especially one that carries with it so much meaning in superstition and legend. These birds were silent, so silent, and watchful. Catching them in flight toward their prey — that will have to wait for another trip.