For immediate release
African Vulture Spotted in Central Florida Likely to be Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens’ Missing Bird
March 01, 2012 - Jacksonville, Fl -
Officials at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens got an encouraging email and photo of an exotic bird that appears to be Hodari, the male African vulture missing from the Zoo since November 2011. The now famous vulture was spotted and photographed in an orange grove in north Avon Park, located in central Florida just west of MacDill Air Force Base last week. He was feeding on a carcass with some Turkey vultures and appears to be in good condition.
The Zoo learned of the sighting from a colleague at the Alligator Farm, who had been contacted by PhD candidate from Cornell University’s Department of Ecology and the National Wildlife Research Center’s USDA/APHIS/WS. After much scrutiny, the experts identified the bird as an African vulture and began a search for a zoo in Florida that might be missing one. Representatives of APHIS and Disney World have offered to assist in tracking and capturing the bird by netting or setting a safe trap.
Hodari took flight from his home in its Giraffe Overlook exhibit at Jacksonville Zoo after a restrictive band on one of his wings broke. Zoo employees’ efforts to recapture him were unfortunately unsuccessful. After notifying the news media and asking for community support to help find Hodari, many local sightings were reported and tracked by the Zoo, but with disappointing results. The news of this most recent sighting brings new hope to the Zoo that Hodari will soon be reunited with his mate, Raja, the Zoo’s female African vulture.
“After looking at the photograph, it’s obvious that Hodari’s been eating well, and our bird curator said he looks like he’s even had a bath,” said Tony Vecchio, executive director of Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. “It appears that our worries about how he would survive in the real world after being pampered by his keepers for years were unnecessary. After all, he is a vulture, and that means that road kill armadillos and raccoons look like a feast to him. While we’re happy about that, Zoo rumor has it that he and his mate were not that crazy about each other anyway, so convincing him to come home may still be a challenge.”
For nearly a century, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has been dedicated to inspiring the discovery and appreciation of wildlife through innovative experiences in a caring environment. Starting in 1914 with an animal collection that consisted of one red deer fawn, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens now has more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and 1,000 plants. It has won national acclaim for its South American Range of the Jaguar exhibit and has the largest botanical garden in Northeast Florida. The Jacksonville Zoo is a non-profit organization and is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). It is open year-round, seven days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Christmas day, and is located on Jacksonville’s north side at 370 Zoo Parkway, one-half mile east from I-95. For more information on the Zoo, log on to http://www.jacksonvillezoo.org.
Photo is available on request.