Vultures are nobody's favorite birds, but there is growing concern in India over their dramatically dwindling numbers. Three years ago, ornithologist Vibhu Prakash of the Bombay Natural History Society observed some 4,000 vultures feasting together on carrion at a dumping ground for slaughterhouse waste outside New Delhi. When he looked last year, there were only 50. It's the same story everywhere, says Prakash. Amit Nair, a toxicologist at Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment, suspects pesticides, particularly DDT, may be killing the vultures. The deadly pesticide is still produced in India for restricted use against malaria-spreading mosquitoes, but because it's cheap, farmers use it illegally in the fields. Cattle ingest DDT too, and through their carcasses, it gets transferred to vultures. The birds, having far less bodyweight, eventually succumb to its harmful effects. But not all experts are convinced that a pesticide diet is killing the vultures. The birds have an extraordinarily strong digestive system that can absorb even the deadly anthrax bacteria. Prakash says an undetected viral epidemic could also be a cause of the vulture deaths. Whatever the reason, the vultures' disappearance means farmers must now pay people to bury their dead cattle. Those who can't pay let the animals rot away. In a country with an estimated 280 million cattle, that could raise a hell of a stink. Illustration for TIME by David Hitch Cleaning Everest Waste has been piling up on Mount Everest since climbers first attempted to conquer the world's tallest peak in 1924. Yet not until five years ago did mountaineers begin yearly expeditions to clean the highest parts--from Everest Base Camp (5,334 m) and up. Since then, more than nine tons of waste has been disposed of or recycled. 1999: 1.6 tons 1997/98: 1.4 tons 1996: 2.5 tons 1995: 1.6 tons 1994: 2.3 tons Total amount of garbage retrieved from Mt. Everest: 9.4 tons Still, an estimated 20 tons of trash clutters the mountain's uppermost reaches, according to Brent Bishop, an American mountaineer who oversees the annual cleanup. Bishop is also credited with launching a program in which climbers pay porters extra for lugging garbage to the base camp, where other means are used to remove it. The only major cleanup organized by the Nepalese, back in 1996, netted two tons of used equipment, food wrappers and even a body. To deter littering, the government levies a $4,000 environment deposit on each expedition, though it's not always effective. Says Bishop: Some see it as a fee to leave trash in Nepal.