The world’s population of a critically endangered African vulture got a little boost recently when a pair of Rüppell’s griffon vultures at Banham Zoo successfully hatched a single chick.
The egg was laid in January this year and keepers initially removed it for safekeeping, placing it in one of the zoo’s incubators. To ensure that the parents remained on the nest they were given a dummy egg to incubate as keepers wanted to eventually return the original egg so that the chick could be raised naturally.
After an incubation period of over two months the egg was duly returned to the pair and successfully hatched within a few days.
The chick is now 2 months old and has recently been moved to a new nesting platform so that it can benefit from the UV rays of the sun, an important element in the rearing process as this aids in the development of strong bones. As a consequence of the move, the chick is now visible to visitors in the zoo.
This species has seen a rapid decline in numbers in the wild, 97% of the world’s population is estimated to have been lost in the last 56 years[i]. In response to this, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) have established a captive breeding programme for this species, with European zoos now housing around 115 of these incredible birds.
Banham Zoo has also been an active supporter of vulture conservation for many years and has donated around £45,000 to help preserve the species in its native habitat.
Many species of vulture have become incredibly endangered in recent times; in fact no other group of animals in the world today has declined in numbers as quickly as some vulture species. Some of these catastrophic declines in the vulture populations can be attributed to the use of Diclofenac, a commonly used veterinary drug used to treat domestic livestock. Unfortunately it is highly toxic to vultures and as the vultures cleaned up carcasses treated with the drug they died in their thousands. Its use as a veterinary drug in some but not all range countries has since been banned.
The zoo hopes that this most recent breeding is a small step in securing the future of one of Africa’s most amazing vultures as well as highlighting the plight of all vulture species in the wild.
[i] IUCN red data list