The Animal Facts Editorial Team
May 18, 2023 9:58 pm
London Zoo, London, The United Kingdom
ZSL London Zoo have shared an update on their 3-month-old Critically Endangered vulture chick, Egbert. Keepers were thrilled when Egbert hatched in March, the first vulture hatched in London in 40 years.
Unfortunately Egbert had a dramatic start to his life with keepers stepping in to save its life. It had difficulty working its way out of the egg.
Since his tough start in life the chick has gone from strength to strength. Recently it has begun to spend time with parents Philomena and Cuthbert, in the zoo’s Land of the Lions exhibit.
“We’re really pleased with Egbert’s development so far,” zookeeper Robert Harland explained. “The soft grey chick fuzz is long gone and Egbert now sports the distinctive hunch-back and sharp beak of an adolescent vulture. He’s in the process of fledging and will soon develop his important flight feathers, which can grow to a foot long and enable vultures to soar high in the sky.”
To assist its development, Robert, who hand-reared the Critically Endangered bird is working it through a daily physiotherapy program. This involves a range of daily gripping exercises which build strength in the claws and feet. A special vulture assault course with various branches to clamber over has also been established to assist with this.
“Over the next few months we’d expect to see Egbert build further strength in his feet, neck and wings. He’s already started to flap and stretch his wings, and that strength will keep developing until he’s a confident flyer.”
It is hoped that later this year Egbert will be able to join the rest of the vulture family on exhibit at the zoo.
Vultures are one of the first animals which lived at ZSL London Zoo when it opened nearly 200 years ago. Unfortunately over this time their numbers have plummetted. In the 11 years from 2004 to 2015 the species went from a listing of least concern to critically endangered on the IUCN red list.
ZSL provide support to Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) to protect vultures in Southern Asia. Previously their vets flew to Nepal where they investigated a spate of vulture deaths and were instrumental in successfully campaigning the governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan to ban the manufacture and importation of diclofenac - an anti-inflammatory used widely on cattle but lethal to the vultures who fed on their carcasses.
Ruppell's Griffon vulture have an alteration to one of their proteins which allow them to fly at high altitudes where the air pressure is lower. This adaptation means they can reach heights of up to 10,973 meters above sea level reaching that of most airplanes.
Image: © ZSL London Zoo
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