World Bird Sanctuary Sends Endangered Vultures to Africa


The bold conservation initiative brings new hope to this imperiled species.

ST. LOUIS (June 25, 2024) – In its continued fight against extinction, the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, Missouri, proudly announced the successful relocation of two endangered Egyptian Vultures to their partner organization, VulPro, in South Africa. This significant milestone marks the start of a collaborative breeding program designed to preserve this globally threatened species.

The Egyptian Vulture, distinguished by its yellow face and white plumage, has suffered a dramatic population decline due to poisoning, electrocution from powerlines, and being collected for traditional medicine. Wild populations in Africa have plummeted by more than 90% over the last three generations, leading to the species being declared extinct in South Africa.

The World Bird Sanctuary has been working for over four years with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to create a safeguard population in the United States, with the goal of relocating offspring to South Africa. This program is a vital effort to avert the extinction of these majestic birds.

“We are thrilled to be working to save the Egyptian Vulture. By partnering with VulPro and San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, we are working together to give these birds a fighting chance,” said Daniel Cone, Assistant Executive Director of the World Bird Sanctuary.

The two vultures were transported under strict international guidelines to ensure their safety and well-being during the journey. Upon arrival in South Africa, the birds settled comfortably into their new home, where they will be closely monitored by their team of vulture experts.

VulPro’s CEO, Kerri Wolter, expressed her enthusiasm for the new partnership: “Egyptian Vultures have been a species of much debate in South Africa since the start of my career in vulture conservation, some 21 years ago. The species was listed as extinct as a breeding species decades ago and there has been much debate whether a reintroduction of Egyptian Vultures is feasible, practical and doable. It was not until recently where this debate led to this exact question being integrated as an objective in South Africa’s National Vulture Biodiversity Management Plan. However, obtaining the correct sub-species of African Egyptian Vultures has proven challenging and with the ever present breeding programmes in Europe, often these countries have taken priority. That is up until now and before the World Bird Sanctuary and VulPro joined hands to make this objective and reintroduction programme a reality for South Africa. For the first time in decades, 2 African Egyptian Vultures are joining VulPro’s breeding programme with the ultimate goal of researching and undertaking a planned reintroduction of the species into South Africa. Of course, with only 1 pair to join our programme, this is just a start until we can source additional birds for future pairing but, it is a start nonetheless and which would not be possible at all, without the World Bird Sanctuary, for which we are extremely grateful towards. Our partnership marks the beginning of great things for vulture conservation in South Africa where perhaps one day, our skies will grace the presence of what has always been known as “Pharaohs chickens” the Egyptian Vulture”

This collaboration between the World Bird Sanctuary, VulPro, and the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance underscores the importance of international partnerships in wildlife conservation.

“It is incredibly rewarding to reach this milestone alongside our partners at World Bird Sanctuary and VulPro,” said Andrew Stehly, curator of birds, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “For years we’ve worked toward the shared goal of reintroducing Egyptian vultures into their native habitat, including by welcoming several chicks—the only ones to hatch in the United States—as part of a conservation breeding program. We look forward to the journey ahead for these birds, each new success a testament to the power of international collaboration in wildlife conservation.”

“The conservation of endangered species, and the protection of our planet as a whole, is a shared responsibility. We invite the global community to support our efforts in ensuring that these incredible birds soar the skies for generations to come.” added Cone

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