For the first time in our history, the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has welcomed a Lappet-faced vulture chick into the world!
The female chick hatched to parents Kruger and Hathor, on February 12, 2020. They have been doting, loving parents to their new bundle of joy. Although the chick is still being brooded, at times the chick can be seen on exhibit when the parents are feeding it or changing brooding duties.
Vulture chick on exhibit with parents. Photo by Larkin J, Senior Bird Keeper
The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens has been a long-time supporter of African vulture conservation. Through our partnership with VulPro, we sponsor “Vulture Restaurants” throughout South Africa to provide safe meat to supplement the wild population.
Wild African vultures are facing a real crisis today. In the past 30 years, the vultures have suffered a dramatic population decline with some species losing as much as 90 percent of their population. This is faster than the Dodo’s rate of extinction!
In late February, more than 648 known vulture deaths were reported in Guinea-Bissau. This number has since risen to almost 1,000 total. While poisoning is the most common and biggest threat to vultures, this event’s cause is still under investigation.
“In recent years, we have unfortunately faced several incidents where hundreds of vultures died around a poisoned carcass, usually due to human-wildlife conflict with predators,” said Andre Botha, the Endangered Wildlife Trust Africa’s Vultures for Africa Programme manager in a recent press release. African vultures are being poisoned because of their role as sentinels, when they circle above an animal carcass. When poachers kill an animal, vultures will come to feed on the carcass which alert rangers and conservationists of their location.
Poisonings are unfortunately quite frequent making our collective conservation efforts more urgent.
Vultures are critical to keeping the environment safe from infectious diseases, yet many species are on the brink of extinction. With their acidic stomachs, they can safely digest meat infected with distemper, rabies, tuberculosis, anthrax, and cholera—thereby effectively removing these dangers from the ecosystem as quickly as in 24 hours!
In places void of vultures, carcasses take three times as long to decay. This exposes these diseases to other animals and people. Vultures are truly heroes of our ecosystems!
When we reopen, we invite you to visit the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens to chat with keepers and learn more about vultures.
In the meantime, you can explore VulPro.com to learn about their on-grounds efforts and watch this video by TED-Ed about the importance of vultures in our ecosystems.
Chick receiving helping hand from vets to get out of the last piece of shell followed by a health check. Photo by Danielle B, Senior Bird Keeper.
Checking weight and overall health to determine acceptable parental care. Photo by Allison L, Bird Keeper.
Written by Larkin Johansen, Senior Bird Keeper