Both the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park have Andean and California condors. The Safari Park is also home to several Old World vulture species. The king vulture is closely related to a huge bird that lived during the Pleistocene epoch, the Merriam’s teratorn. Its scientific name means “incredible bird monster,” which is fitting because the bird had a wingspan of 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.7 meters). A life-size statue of this bird can be seen in the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey habitat.
The California condor Gymnogyps californianus, white-rumped vulture Gyps bengalensis, Indian vulture Gyps indicus,/i>, slender-billed vulture ,i>Gyps tenuirostris, and red-headed vulture Sarcogyps calvus are at critical risk. Things that we humans put in our environment seem to be causing rapid declines in vulture populations. For example, in India and other parts of South Asia, huge numbers of vultures died because of an anti-inflammatory drug used by veterinarians and ranchers to help livestock. The vultures ate livestock that had been treated by the drug, became sick, and died.
To conserve these graceful scavengers, breeding programs, education, and awareness programs have been started for endangered vultures by organizations like The Peregrine Fund and Vulture Rescue. San Diego Zoo Global is heavily involved in the California Condor Recovery Program.
There are people out there fighting for these birds, and so can you! Place trash in the right bin, don’t use dangerous chemicals, dispose of harmful substances responsibly, and recycle. These are all ways that you can help wildlife, including those misunderstood vultures.