Apparently, South African gamblers smoke endangered vultures' brains for good luck. Now conservationists warn the World Cup might wipe the birds out. Maybe it's a slightly racist fabrication. But it's legit enough for Scientific American to pick it up!
The custom stems from the traditional medicine known in South Africa as muti. The vulture brains are dried, ground up and then smoked in cigarettes which supposedly give the users visions of the future. In addition to dreams of winning lotto numbers or sports teams, practitioners say the practice can give users an edge on taking tests or help their business attract more clients. A tiny vial of vulture brains sells for around $6.50, according to an article from AFP.
It also helps smokers realize how the whole universe is a glorious bundle of energy, dude. The conservation group BirdLife South Africa put out a press release this week warning that "The harvesting of the bird's heads by followers of muti magic is an additional threat these birds can't endure."
Meanwhile, the South African government has moved to tattoo health warnings and pictures of cancerous lungs on all vultures.
(Pic via Wikipedia)