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Puppet Parent Cares for Vulture Chick at San Diego Zoo

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: September 26, 2021 12:45 am

Vulture chick San Diego Zoo

A rare Egyptian vulture chick hatched at San Diego Zoo Safari Park is pictured aged 4 months old after being successfully hand-reared

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance have continued their success with breeding threatened vultures with the hatching of a Western Egyptian vulture chick. The chick is being reared by keepers who use a puppet to feed her.

Jamila was born to the only breeding pair of Western Egyptian vulture in the United States. She is the first chick of this species in the Alliance's 105 year history.

Western Egyptian vultures are native to Europe, Asia and Africa but very few are kept in the United States. It is hoped that the new breeding effort will increase the conservation population of this species held in North America.

“Increasing the number of individual birds and maintaining genetic diversity in North America is an extremely important part of our work. As Egyptian vulture numbers continue to decline in their native habitat, the genetic line of every individual becomes increasingly more important to the continuation of this species,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 

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Western Egyptian vultures are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. “This is an endangered species with a rapidly declining population trend, as is the plight of many vulture species," added Peterson.

To ensure her success in the future keepers use a puppet to feed Jamila. Vultures are considered highly intelligent and may imprint on humans if they associate them with food. A lifelike puppet is used to pass food to her.

It was decided to hand-rear the chick as she is so important for the small population of her species and has inexperienced parents.

“Puppet versus hand rearing is an important distinction to make, as these are very intelligent animals that can easily imprint on humans, if we are not careful,” said Peterson. “Due to the low numbers of Egyptian vultures, each one is very special. The likelihood of survival for each offspring is greatly increased by assisting with rearing in the early years of a program. The California condor program is a great example of how this method is used.”

Vultures are among the most threatened group of birds in the world. They are important in the environment helping to prevent the spread of disease.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance have provided a home for 19 of the world's 23 vulture species in their history and this is the 11th of those species to have bred.

Vulture chick San Diego Zoo

A rare Egyptian vulture chick hatched at San Diego Zoo Safari Park is pictured aged 4 months old after being successfully hand-reared

Photo Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Learn more about the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on their website – San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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