Vulture 'restaurants' across southern Europe are serving up carcasses in an attempt to rescue these endangered birds. We contend that such outlets are no true replacement for the naturally random food pulses associated with wildlife carrion.
When food is only randomly available, it supports the foraging of hundreds of invertebrate and vertebrate scavenger species, promoting co-existence of multiple species and thus ecosystem balance. By contrast, a predictable food supply tends to benefit only selected species (see, for example, A. Cortés-Avizanda et al. Front. Ecol. Environ. 14, 191–199; 2016) — griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) in this case.
Furthermore, large predators are now expanding in Europe, contributing to the rewilding of many landscapes. Predation helps to stabilize food chains by buffering oscillations in the availability of carrion, which are linked to climate events and disease epidemics. Scavenger species that recover as a result of such ecological rewilding boost ecosystem functions and services derived from their feeding behaviour, for example by reducing the spread of disease.
We should stop providing services to nature through vulture restaurants and allow nature to provide services to us.