Cody was a Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres), captive bred at the Pretoria Zoo who came to VulPro at about 2 weeks old to be a vulture ambassador. No one knew then how impactful this single vulture would become for a species.
Vultures in Africa are declining at a devastating rate – we have to save the species. Without them we face disease epidemics, vermin population explosions and loss of livestock and wildlife. Vultures are not generally liked by “Joe Public”, mistakenly seen as dirty and vicious. Vultures needed a saviour, a vulture so special and so unique that you couldn’t help but fall in love with him. A vulture who would make people fall for him, so that they learnt to appreciate and empathise with the species.
Meet Cody – he became the face of Mazda, the iconic vulture featured in their moving and impactful television and print media adverts. This little vulture put vultures in almost every house in South Africa, in a way that made us proud to be South African and willing to look after our heritage. Coupled with glorious African sunsets and landscapes he epitomised all that we love and are proud to call South African.
Normally vultures are quite playful and as they reach sexual maturity can become a bit grumpy about being worked with, so are not best suited to being education birds. Prone to bite when startled or threatened, they can be their own PR enemy number; one add to that their piercing gaze and they are quite intimidating.
Cody was the most unique vulture, gentle to his very core. In his two years as a vulture ambassador he never bit a person or reacted negatively to one. He seemed to understand his purpose in life and maintained the gentlest and calmest persona. A vulture’s gaze is usually highly intelligent and quite piercing; it can be quite intimidating as you feel that they look right into your soul. Cody’s gaze carried the intelligence of his species but held a highly unusual softness that drew one in. We can honestly say that he was an old soul with the knowledge and confidence gleaned through the ages; he had the inexplicable charisma that drew whoever met him into wanting to be closer to him and even better he allowed and thrived on the interaction. He genuinely loved to be around people, as seen in the photo above could be almost human like in his interaction with them. Whilst we don’t condone the anthropomorphism of animals, it was very difficult to not think in those terms when you were around Cody.
As is so often the case, the best of us often die far too soon. Sadly he died of unknown causes when he was two years old, his post mortem was inconclusive making his death even harder to accept.
To this day there has never been another vulture with his same gentleness of spirit and age old peace – staff at VulPro still become emotional when the talk about him a true legend and a well-deserved member of the VulPro Vulture Heroes.
Cody’s legacy lives on,
“If you can’t make people love a species, get them to love one special character, because one vulture did make a difference!”