HOUSTON – Six endangered vultures have arrived at the Houston Zoo.
The committee of vultures, a term used to reference a group of vultures, includes two cape vultures, one Ruppell’s griffon vulture, and three hooded vultures. It’s the first time in the Houston Zoo’s history to house these species of birds. All three are Old World vultures, meaning that they originated from the continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Meet the various vultures in the committee:
Cape vultures’ wingspan can reach up to 8.5 feet and are among the largest Old World vultures. They can consume 10% of their body weight in a single feeding.
- Chiku is one year old, the only female of the committee and comes from St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park. She is friendly but her strong personality makes her the boss of the committee.
- Nazgul is a three-year-old male and comes from the Albuquerque Biological Park.
Ruppell’s griffon vultures have an eight-foot wingspan. They are said to be the highest-flying birds in the world.
- Bruce is a seven-year-old male and the oldest of the committee. He comes from the Dallas Zoo.
Hooded vultures are smaller Old World vultures. Within this species, the males tend to be smaller than females.
- Buzzy is a one-year-old male and comes from St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
- Dizzy is a three-year-old male and comes from St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
- Flaps is a six-year-old male and comes from San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Guests at the Houston Zoo can find the committee of vultures in the former jaguar habitat next to the cougars.
The population of all three African species in the wild is rapidly declining. Vultures are protected by antipoaching efforts the Zoo supports in Africa. The Zoo provides training and support for anti-poaching scouts hired from the local communities to locate traps set for wildlife and catch poachers in areas where vultures live.
Vultures are commonly seen as an ominous presence and are viewed as harbingers of death. However, their diet of fresh carrion, carcasses vultures eat, allows them to dispose of or consume meat that would otherwise become a breeding ground for disease as it decays.
The Houston Zoo said that by visiting the zoo, guests are contributing to the Zoo’s wildlife saving efforts, ensuring animals like the vultures don’t go extinct. A portion of each Zoo admission and membership goes toward helping to protect vultures in the wild.