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Zoo Atlanta's New Vulture Chick Being Raised by a Puppet

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: May 20, 2020 9:29 pm

hooded vulture

Photo Credit: Zoo Atlanta

Keepers at Zoo Atlanta have become surrogate parents to a critically endangered hooded vulture. The chick is none the wiser to his change of parents though, as keepers use a puppet when interacting with him.

First time parents, Acacia and Tai, laid their egg in February and with each chick being precious for this critically endangered species keepers chose the safe option of taking the egg for artificial incubation. This egg was replaced with a “dummy egg” which they were able to practice incubating. Following the swapping of the eggs the parents were observed not incubating the egg properly confirming that this was the correct decision.

After being incubated by keepers the chick successfully hatched on April 9th. The birth is extra special for Zoo Atlanta as Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation explained, “This hatching is such an exciting and happy milestone for Zoo Atlanta, especially during times that are so challenging for everyone. Not only is this, to our knowledge, the first vulture ever hatched at the Zoo, but the chick is also a new member of a group of animals in urgent need of conservation action.”

Following hatching keepers have cared for the chick using a puppet designed to resemble the adult hooded vulture. This is to prevent imprinting which may lead to the vulture associating itself with humans instead of other vultures. This can lead to problems later in life for the vulture and prevent them from successfully breeding. To further prevent imprinting the keepers do not talk while near the chick.

Keepers are working towards a range of goals with the chick with the eventual goal of introducing it to members of its own species. Over the coming weeks it will learn to feed on its own, fledge and then leave the nest.

Each hooded vulture born is an important milestone for the species. In their native Africa this species is coming under threat primarily from poisoning and hunting by poachers. Poachers do not like vultures as they eat carrion and will attempt to eat poached animals which can alert authorities to the poachers presence.

The removal of vultures from an environment can be a catastrophe for the environment as they eat carrion and can prevent the spread of diseases through the environment.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list the hooded vulture as critically endangered.

Learn more about Zoo Atlanta on their websiteZoo Atlanta Website

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