When we think of vultures, we picture big, ugly birds circling over a carcass in the desert. They are a stereotypical harbinger of death. But in many parts of the world, vultures are in danger of disappearing. Our knee-jerk reaction might well be “good riddance”, but as is the case for pretty much all participants in ecosystems, vultures have an important role to play. And when they aren’t around to play that role, bad things can happen.