Keepers at London Zoo have a rather odd animal that they have been taking on walks around the 36 acre ZSL London Zoo site. While most people take their dog on a walk these keepers have two black vultures known as Guido and Jaffar to guide around the property.
Jaffar is the new kid on the block at London Zoo so keepers are wanting to socialise him with pro Guido before they appear in the ‘Deadly Birds’ demonstration this spring.
While the routine is popular with Guido and Jaffar guests have been taking a little bit longer to get used to sharing the path with a pair of carnivores as their keeper Grant Kother explained, “We’ve had a few strange looks from visitors when we’re out on the walks with the vultures – with their comical hopping gait, and huge 1.9 metre wing span (4.9feet), they’re hard to miss!”
“The walks are really beneficial for these incredibly intelligent birds, not only are they forming a great bond with each other, but Jaffar loves getting attention from his keepers and is really enjoying his new training here at ZSL London Zoo,” he added.
Watch a video of Guido and Jaffars adventures below:
It doesn’t take much to get these birds to follow the keepers. They are happy to do it for their favourite meaty snacks. Sometimes though they can be a bit cheeky taking to the skies above the zoo for a quick flight. This is a natural behaviour used in the wild to find food.
They feed almost exclusively on carrion which is the carcasses of dead animals. This has led to them being given the name nature’s bin-men. This is a vital role in their native habitat which helps to keep the environment free of disease. At the zoo of course this is not their daily menu. Instead keepers will reward them with quail and mice at the end of their walk.
While they are safe at the zoo in the wild this species is in trouble as Kother explained, “Vultures are in global decline, particularly in Asia and Nepal, due to ingesting a medicine given to the cows which they eat, and Guido and Jaffar’s role in the Deadly Birds demonstration is to help our visitors better understand why these amazing birds need our protection and what ZSL is doing to save them.”
Photo Credit: London Zoo