A Peruvian public awareness campaign about Lima’s garbage problem, and how vultures are now the heroes of the day, has gone viral.
Commonly considered nuisance scavengers, vultures have been tasked by authorities in Lima with the responsibility of monitoring the city’s rubbish dumps.
The birds are the unlikely stars of an innovative campaign to address Lima’s garbage problem and discourage illegal dumping.
Dubbed the ‘Vultures Detect’ program, ten birds have been trained and fitted with GoPro cameras and GPS in a bid to clean up the city.
The program, a joint venture between the Peruvian environmental ministry and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is an attempt to identify the people responsible for dumping trash in the capital.
Speaking to AFP, program coordinator Javier Hernandez said: “Vultures are our allies in the reduction of organic waste.”
“In their search for food, what they’re really doing is identifying places where there is organic matter and garbage. We’re using that… to get the GPS coordinates and monitor these sites.”
Highly stylized, the video, released by USAID and the Ministry of Environment, begins with a dramatic voice-over ominously describing the “danger” that threatens Lima.
“Fourteen thousand years have passed since this struggle began. On one hand, pestilence and disease are hidden among the filth. On the other hand, humans are placidity ignoring the danger that threatens to interrupt its aspirations of development for forever.”
Then…cue the vulture.
“Eyes in the sky”
Historically associated with death and disease, and often an unwelcome reminder of man’s own failings to keep the environment garbage-free, vultures are being recast as champions, Lima’s winged protectors, the city’s eyes in the sky.
Alfredo Correa, one of the trainers involved in the program, told eNews Channel Africa (ENCA) that “generally the majority of people have a negative view of the vulture, which is associated many times with death and many negative things. They don’t realize that (vultures) play a very important role in nature, especially in Lima as they’re helping a lot to control a large quantity of the rubbish we’re dumping.”
Indeed, as the video dramatically declares, the dumping of garbage is a problem for Lima, posing serious health risks to the city’s inhabitants.
According to a November 2015 article in Peru this Week, the capital, which is home to more than nine million residents, produces more than 240,000 tons of waste each year.
Particularly concerning for Lima’s authorities is the dumping of trash in the street, footpaths and other public areas. Although it is illegal to dump rubbish in these areas, the law is poorly enforced.
Illegal dump sites in public areas have been associated with an increased risk of stomach and respiratory problems.
It is hoped, however, that with aid of trusty GoPro vultures, the city’s rubbish problem can be brought under control, and the campaign has been received well.
Social media has also reacted well to the winged helpers:
Best news via @CheckpointRNZ: Vultures with GoPros & GPS detect illegal rubbish dumping in Peru. Go vultures!… https://t.co/mqSPsF7BOw
— Ollie (@TheOllieBuzz) January 21, 2016