Happy International Vulture Awareness Day! Today, keepers Brooke and Michelle are spending time with Godric and Hedwig, our Cape griffon vultures, and Nesher, our Eurasian griffon vulture. Cape Griffon vultures are endangered with declining populations, but Eurasian Griffon vultures are of least concern and are increasing in the wild. Vultures are extremely important parts of their ecosystems, and serve as an indicator of the health of the environment below them. Measuring the health of vultures is a great way to measure the overall health of the food chain below them.
Many of the challenges that vultures face in the wild are man-made. Accidental power line collisions are a major issue for these birds. Poachers will also sometimes poison the meat of illegal kills to prevent vultures from flying above the carcasses and revealing their location to rangers. Loss of habitat is also causing a decline in these powerful birds, as it means fewer resources for these birds to live off of.
While these dangers are man-made. not all human intervention is bad for these birds. We are proud that Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s guests help fund the operations of VulPro through Quarters for Conservation, which is funded by your 75¢ contribution every time you visit the Zoo. VulPro is a South African-based conservation program that works to save Africa’s vultures through rehabilitation efforts, captive breeding programs, research and education.
Since November 2020, VulPro has rescued 59 vultures, most of which were victims of power line collisions and starvation. One of their rising concerns is the impact of wind farms on vulture populations, as they are beginning to see more vultures and raptors injured or killed by collisions with turbines. One especially memorable rescue occurred in May this year, when an African white-backed vulture had its head and beak stuck in a piece of old pvc pipe. When the VulPro team rescued the bird, he was malnourished and dehydrated, and his tongue was damaged where the pipe had cut into it. The vulture stayed at the Vulpro facility until it recovered, and was released back into the wild on June 1.
VulPro’s hope is to inspire people to protect these iconic species. Thank you for celebrating International Vulture Awareness Day with us at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where every visit is conservation in action.