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Sky burial is a ritual that has great religious meaning. Tibetans are encouraged to witness this ritual, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. They believe that the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel. The spirit, or the soul, of the deceased has exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life. The corpse is offered to the vultures.

It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis. Dakinis are the Tibetan equivalent of angels. In Tibetan, Dakini means “sky dancer”. Dakinis will take the soul into the heavens, which is understood to be a windy place where souls await reincarnation into their next lives.

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JACK LOOK

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Elephant Poachers Poison Hundreds of Vultures to Evade Authorities

The ongoing slaughter of Africa’s elephants is at record levels.  The situation has gotten out of hand in many countries, especially those lacking the resources to fight the increase in demand for ivory from the Far East.

Poachers lace the discarded elephant carcass with cheap poisons to kill vultures in mass.  Why? Because vultures circling in the sky alert wildlife authorities to the location of poachers’ activities.

With wildlife authorities struggling to save the remaining tuskers, there has been little attention paid to the other casualties of elephant poaching.  In what is now becoming commonplace across the continent, poachers lace the discarded elephant carcass with cheap poisons to kill vultures in mass.  Why? Because vultures circling in the sky alert wildlife authorities to the location of poachers’ activities.  Vultures are highly specialized to locate carcasses quickly so as to avoid competition from larger mammalian predators. 

Poachers would prefer their nefarious activities to remain undetected to escape arrest.  So to a poacher capable of gunning down a 7-ton beast, poisoning several hundred vultures along the way is all in a days’ work.

Full story at NatGeo

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"I wish dragons were real!"

Mate. Have you SEEN a bird. Tell me this thing isn’t a dragon.

This is an African white-backed vulture at the Hawk Conservancy in Andover. This one’s fully grown but still thinks he’s a baby, and he performed feed me feed me behaviour all through being photographed. It would probably have been adorable coming from a fluffy chick with stubbywings, but was a bit scary coming from something with a 3m wingspan going WAARK WAARK. He sounded really cross! 

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Give My Body to the Birds: The Practice of Sky Burial

Sky burial isn’t a burial at all, of anything. It’s the act of leaving a corpse exposed to the elements, often in an elevated location, and only a few different cultures do it, for different reasons and in different ways. 

The concept’s been on my radar for a few years thanks to happening upon the Vajrāyana Buddhist bya gtor practice primarily found in Tibet —and less so in China and Mongolia. It can be shocking to see — ex-human beings being dispassionately dragged up a mountain, chopped up, and thrown to a venue of waiting vultures. 

But then I started to think (and read) about it.

Read the complete history of sky burial on Atlas Obscura… 

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