Welcome to the wonderful world of vultures. Kid’s Corner shares with you amazing information about our vultures, the coolest, little known facts about them, how they live, fly and the funny side of their characters.
For those of you who are keen to learn about the different parts of a vulture, we have a series of labelled photos for you, to keep it interesting. This is of course not every part of a vulture, but gives you a good idea of the different flight feathers etc.
Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any queries, or comment on the post and we will get back to you as quickly as possible with answers.
For those of you who follow Bee Sting’s story, you will be pleased to know that Dr Dorianne Elliot’s innovative fibreglass cast wing cap, has worked. Bee Sting is healing well and is now having her dressings changed at VulPro twice a week. Dr Elliot was able to fit it in such a way that no damage was caused to the fragile blood supply to the wing, Bee Sting will keep her wing, which was one of our biggest concerns.
She is also a lot more comfortable, so is allowing us to work with her more easily. In true Bee Sting style, she is giving Dr Elliot’s fibreglass cap a good go, and it is starting to show some wear around the edges, hopefully by the time she really damages it, we will be able to take it off her for good.
The other good news is that Bee Sting has been adopted, Elizabeth and Tertius Bouwer have been welcomed into the VulPro family as Bee Sting’s “family”.
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!”
Sizzle (Tag B432) a Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) was rescued on the 10th of November 2010 in the Damdoryn area of Brits in the North West Province, South Africa. Sizzle had decided to go through a property’s electric fence and in trying to get through had burnt his neck severely. Ordinarily an electric fence has up to 6000 volts running through it; this is what is legally acceptable in South Africa. Kerri has rescued many vultures stuck in electric fences and never before or since seen the kind of burns that Sizzle experienced – leading her to believe that the voltage on that particular fence was much higher.
On initial inspection, Sizzle had a few singed neck feathers as would normally be expected from an experience like this. Then he started to breathe strangely, making a horrible gargling sound in his throat, not understanding what was causing the problem, he was rushed through to the Exotic Animal Clinic at Onderstepoort.
Sizzle was anaesthetised and the vet checked inside his mouth, normally an endoscope would be used to examine all the tissue in Sizzle’s throat, in this case, his throat was so swollen that the vet couldn’t get the endoscope down his throat. Using long thin forceps, the vet was able to ascertain that there was necrotic burnt tissue inside Sizzle’s throat, blocking his trachea (air passage). Not only was this excruciatingly painful, threatened Sizzle’s ability to breathe, the risk of infection from dead and dying tissue all of which would have killed Sizzle without veterinary intervention.
Poor Sizzle had to be anaesthetised and treated every third day for the next few weeks – this meant that the vet had to scrape and remove all of the dead tissue in Sizzle’s trachea and oesophagus. After that he was treated once a week until he had healthy tissue left in his trachea and oesophagus.
He was kept with Puff Adder (Read Puff Adder’s Story) for few weeks to make sure that he was strong enough to survive after being released and could eat and breathe with no issues.
South Africa is a country with a high crime rate and electric fences are the go to first line of defence against intruders. What we often forget about are the wildlife who have to move in and out of our gardens in order to survive. Snakes, mice, chameleons, hedgehogs, large insects and birds are all at risk of electrocution if the fence is not legally compliant. Pets are also at risk should a dog get stuck under an electric fence that isn’t legally compliant.
Whilst we all need to remain safe and secure in our houses, please remember that we need to keep our wildlife safe as well. Sizzle is the perfect ambassador for the implications of illegally designed security measures. He was released with Puff Adder on the 19th of December 2010.
Familiarise yourself with what to do should a person or animal be stuck in your fence:
Turn the fence off or move the animal away from the fence using a dry, non-conducting object made of cardboard, rubber or wood.
Know how to perform CPR on animals, especially if you really love your dogs and cats
Keep the animal warm as shock can cause a significant drop in body temperature.
If clean gauze or a sterile dressing is available then cover any external burns. Do not use cotton wool or material with fibres as they will stick in the wounds.
Get the animal to a vet immediately, many electrical burns are worse on the inside than you would expect from the external signs on their body.
Make sure that your electric fence is legally compliant with current legislation
After Bee Sting’s visit at Millstream Primary School and rescue by VulPro, she spent some time at VulPro before being released again. We all gave a big sigh of relief hoping that Bee Sting would now keep her life a little simpler and give us fewer grey hairs. Sadly this hasn’t been the case; about 10 days ago we had to fetch Bee Sting from Caribbean Beach in Hartbeespoort, she was brought back to VulPro and initially we didn’t realise what had happened to her. She was able to fly to the top of the 9m enclosure and was her usual cheeky self, our plans were to let her settle again, make sure that she was well fed and then re-release her. Bee Sting has an incredibly strong and stubborn personality which had helped save her life when she was stung by over 220 bees Bee Sting’s Story Part One, little did we know that her will to live had been tested again.
On the 26th of June, we noticed some blood on Bee Sting from her right wing, our vultures’ health is always very important, so we caught Bee Sting to find out what the injury is. Imagine our horror when we discovered a burnt area on her right wing and some singed feathers – the only conclusion is a power line electrocution, which this miracle vulture survived.
When we collected Bee Sting she was on the ground in close proximity to a power line but because she showed no sign of injury and was able to fly, we didn’t realise that she had in fact been electrocuted and without another one of her “extra lives” would have been found dead. Read about power lines here.
Bee Sting’s electrical burn was treated and healing well, until the itching and irritation of the healing process caused Bee Sting to “help” her healing process a little too much and she caused some new wounds. This is very similar to when we have a cut or graze that is healing and we end up scratching it until it is sore or bleeding because the itching is driving us crazy. The difference is we can be told to leave it alone and why, vultures don’t understand that rubbing and scratching their injuries only makes it worse.
Bee Sting was rushed to Dr Dorianne Elliot at the Bird and Exotic Animal Hospital at Onderstepoort, North of Pretoria for treatment and to try and save her wing. Bee Sting has a hole right through the joint of her wing and shows some signs of infection, the tendons and ligaments are exposed and she has torn the follicle capsule on one of her primary wing feathers. The original burns are healthy and very close to fully healed. To prevent Bee Sting from “helping” heal her injuries, the innovative Dr Elliot devised a cap of fibreglass cast to stop Bee Sting from picking at the wounds as they continue healing.
The wounds were flushed and treated with an anti-bacterial ointment and then covered with a bandage and the fibreglass cap was placed over the bandage.
Great care has to be taken to protect the blood supply to a vulture’s wings as the blood vessels are very close to the skin with very little protection. As far as we are aware a “cap” like this has never been used on a vulture before, so our brave, tough and cat-like
Bee Sting is proving to be a trailblazer all over again.
In spite of Bee Sting appearing to have 9 lives, we can’t risk her life. This miracle vulture is going to live out her days in our important captive breeding programme run at VulPro. The wild Cape Vulture numbers are so low, that literally every vulture counts to save the species. At VulPro, Bee Sting can continue to supplement wild populations with her chicks and her legacy will live on.
We would also like to invite you to come and visit Bee Sting and our other vultures at the centre, experience first-hand how important our work is, but most importantly come and see how special, intelligent and what characters our vultures are.