Two African white backed vultures are likely to star in arena displays at Baytree Owl Centre in Weston next year.
The birds, now three-and-a-half months old, will help centre manager Mark Birdsall to fundraise for the work of the conservation charity, VulPro, which is trying to save the vulture from extinction.
Africa’s vultures have declined by a catastrophic 90 per cent over the last three decades, mostly as a result of man made problems.
The wellbeing of vultures is key to both human and animal health because they are nature’s “waste disposal team”, minimising disease and vermin outbreaks by removing carcasses from the environment. If vultures are well, so are we and the rest of the animal food chain.
African white backs are more fortunate than their Indian cousins, whose numbers have dipped to just 23 in the entire world, but Mark says lessons have been learned and African white backs are being kept in breeding pairs in centres like Baytree so they can be used to re-stock the wild.
“African white backs have a cute ugliness to them,” says Mark.
Once fully grown in a few months’ time, the vultures will stand about waist high to a man and become the biggest feathered residents at Baytree after the secretary bird.
Mark says: “They are probably going to be too heavy to do any glove work.
“They are a big, flat-footed old lump and they just plod around everywhere. They will probably just run around in the arena displays. It makes a nice change to our demonstrations because, obviously, everything else flies.
“With them being a scavenger, they are quite boisterous and they are used to having to deal with predators. They are pure scavengers, they don’t do any hunting.”
Among other arrivals at the centre is a female African fish eagle, who will be paired soon with an incoming “boyfriend”.
Mark says: “They do predominantly fish in the wild but they do eat other things and they will scavenge.”
Winter projects at Baytree will see the building of three large new aviaries as well as work to extend the fox enclosure.
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