International Vulture Awareness Day activities spotlight nature’s ‘cleanup crew’
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) will celebrate International Vulture Awareness Day on Saturday, September 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Detroit Zoo. Guests will have the chance to engage in hands-on activities while learning about the five species of vultures at the Zoo and the work the DZS is doing to help wild vultures.
Activities will take place at the vulture habitat west of the Ford Education Center in the American Grasslands. There, visitors can see how they size up to the massive birds by comparing their own “wingspan” to that of a vulture’s. Zookeeper talks will be held at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. highlighting the vultures that call the Detroit Zoo home, including cinereous vultures, hooded vultures, Ruppell’s griffon vultures and a lappet-faced vulture. Binoculars will be available for guests to observe the native turkey vultures that soar above the Zoo scavenging for food.
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“International Vulture Awareness Day is a great opportunity to not only raise awareness about the importance of vultures in our ecosystem, but also to bring attention to the plight of many vulture species in Africa and Asia,” said Scott Carter, DZS chief life sciences officer. “These largely misunderstood birds of prey function as our planet’s cleanup crew, aiding in the decomposition of dead animals and helping to limit the spread of disease from animal carcasses.”
Although vultures feed primarily on dead animals – and cleaning up the remains of dead animals helps to prevent the spread of disease – the birds are often blamed for spreading livestock diseases and for preying on young farm animals. Such misconceptions have led to widespread persecution in some parts of the world.
Of the world’s 23 vulture species, 16 are endangered. In the line of their cleanup duties, these birds are often poisoned when the carcasses they consume contain harmful medications or toxic substances. Also, like other bird species, they are frequently colliding with the growing number of electrical lines and structures in their natural habitats, which often causes injury or death from impact or electrocution.
Detroit Zoo visitors on International Vulture Awareness Day will have the opportunity to hear about the work the Detroit Zoological Society does to save vultures from these threats and others. The DZS is a founding member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ African Vulture SAFE program and supports vultures in the wild, partnering with VulPro, an organization that works to conserve and rehabilitate vultures. DZS veterinary and bird care staff assist with artificial incubation and chick-rearing at VulPro’s rescue facility in South Africa, and perform routine health checks on the nearly 200 vultures that live there. The DZS also supports The Peregrine Fund’s vulture conservation efforts in Kenya to reduce vulture poisoning.
The Detroit Zoological Society – a renowned leader in humane education, wildlife conservation, animal welfare and environmental sustainability – operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center. With an annual regional economic impact of more than $167 million, the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak is one of Michigan’s largest paid family attractions, hosting more than 1.3 million visitors annually. Its 125 acres of award-winning naturalistic habitats are home to 2,400 animals representing 235 species. The Belle Isle Nature Center sits on a 5-acre site surrounded by undisturbed forested wetlands on Belle Isle State Park in Detroit. It provides year-round educational, recreational and environmental conservation opportunities for the community. For hours, prices, directions and other information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit detroitzoo.org.