Five vultures from the Detroit Zoo have been moved to South Africa in an effort to restore vulture populations, a first for the zoo.
The five captive-born vultures, one lappet-faced vulture named Kassie and four hooded vultures named Mrs. Nasty, Nelly, Fiona and Zeke, will live at VulPro, a nonprofit conservation organization based in South Africa.
There they will live with other vultures and breed, and their offspring will be released into the wild, the zoo said.
Obtaining the necessary permits to move the vultures took nearly two years due to pandemic-delays.
“Nestling vultures stay with their parents at VulPro until they have successfully fledged and are able to feed on a carcass on their own. Then, they move to a large enclosure with other juveniles and wild-born rehabilitated vultures for a month,” says Kerri Wolter, founder of VulPro. “When they’re strong enough to forage and move widely, they’re released to the wild,” added Wolter.
“This is monumental as it will be the first time that African vultures are returning to their native continent from North America,” said Chief Life Sciences Officer Scott Carter. “We are excited to work with VulPro on this groundbreaking initiative and help to restore these endangered species. We will be sharing updates from VulPro on Kassie, Mrs. Nasty, Nelly, Fiona and Zeke, and look forward to someday showing the release of their offspring in the wild in South Africa,” said Carter.
Vultures are some of the most misunderstood and underappreciated birds in the world, and are also some of the most at risk of extinction. Living almost entirely on diets of carrion (dead animals), these scavengers play a crucial role in the world’s ecosystems.
In recent years, vulture populations in many places around the globe have declined drastically as a result of human activities including changes to wild areas and direct persecution. Lappet-faced vultures are classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Hooded vultures are listed as critically endangered.