The biggest aviary in the world is set to be built in Mumbai so that followers of one of the world’s oldest religions can have their corpses fed to vultures after their deaths.
Published on MyFoxDC.
The Zoroastrian faith has observed "sky burials" for centuries, but pollution in the city has recently led to a lack of wild birds, the religion’s governing body told The (London) Times on Wednesday.
Around 40,000 of India’s 70,000 Parsees reside in Mumbai and sky burials still take place at an average rate of two to three a day.
The new six-story aviary — bigger than a football field — would be built above the Towers of Silence, a sacred hilltop where Zoroastrians (Parsees) have been taken for sky burials since the 17th century.
Mehli Colah, the chief executive of the Bombay Parsee Panchayat (BPP), said, "By the 1990s there were hardly any vultures left. Now there are none. We still have smaller birds like kites and crows but they can only peck and cannot rip the flesh."
Solar panels were erected around the Towers of Silence to hasten decomposition, but this has been only partially successful, he said.
A decision on the aviary will be made once it has been made certain that the vultures could survive in captivity.
Khojeste Mistry, a BPP trustee said, "It would be a marvelous statement, both for conservation and ecology, and because we would also be being faithful to our theology."
The religion states that human corpses should not be allowed to pollute fire, water or earth — ruling out cremation or burial underground or at sea. However, some liberal Parsees believe that the practice is archaic and unhygienic and argue that the Towers of Silence should be abandoned.
Mistry said, "Let us traditionalists do what we want. For those who don’t like it, we say ‘put your money where your mouth is and build your own infrastructure’."