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VICE Best of 2017 S1 • E1

Smoking Vulture Brains in South Africa

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Published on Dec 20, 2017

Part of VICE's Best of 2017. Check out Motherboard for more: https://vice.video/2CKPdl0

Vultures are nature’s garbage collectors. They play an important ecological role in preventing the spread of disease and infection amongst African mammals. A sharp decline in some species of African vultures has lead to a crisis that could threaten the entire ecosystem.

One of the main reasons for the decline is the illegal trade of poached vultures. Often, those body parts end up in the hands of sangomas, South African traditional healers. Some sangomas use vultures in a variety of ceremonies, one of which includes smoking powdered brains to communicate with their ancestors.

In this episode of Symbiotic, Motherboard visited a muthi market in Johannesburg to see this ceremony firsthand and to hear from both sangomas and conservationists. This video originally aired on Motherboard.

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