The lowly vulture is a dirty scavenger to many, but Peruvian environmental authorities have recast the birds as superheroes and outfitted them with high-tech gear in a bid to crack down on illegal garbage dumps.

Wearing GPS trackers and mini video cameras, 10 vultures with mythological names have been dispatched to lead authorities to polluting illegal dumps around Lima.

The Peruvian capital is known for the flocks of vultures that feed at its four landfills and countless illegal dumps where an estimated 20% of its trash ends up. The birds are often seen as pests by the city’s nearly 10 million inhabitants, who throw away 2.1 million tonnes of garbage a year.

But Captain Phoenix, Captain Aella and the other vultures drafted into the environment ministry’s programme are now the protagonists in a creative social media campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the problem and get Lima residents to report illegal dumps and throw away less trash.

A falconer trains a black-headed vulture to return to its roosting site.

A falconer trains a black-headed vulture to return to its roosting site.

“Vultures are our allies in the reduction of organic waste,” said programme co-ordinator Javier Hernandez. “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.”

The 10 vultures, which have all been certified disease-free, are specially trained to fly back to their keepers after each outing. Video footage they take along the way will be posted online. – AFP

With numerous illegal garbage dumps around Lima, a campaign has been launched to raise public awareness about pollution and the importance of recycling.

With numerous illegal garbage dumps around Lima, a campaign has been launched to raise public awareness about pollution and the importance of recycling.