It’s always a happy day at a zoo when a new animal is born. There’s nothing cuter than a newborn animal, and it’s always exciting to have a new face in the animal exhibits.
But it’s even more exciting when the newborn is part of an endangered species. Many zoos are part of programs to help repopulate struggling species, and while it can be difficult and take time, it’s important and rewarding work to help protect these animals from extinction.
Which is why Zoo Atlanta is celebrating its newest arrival: an endangered lappet-faced vulture chick, the first in the zoo’s history and the first after a decade of breeding attempts.
The unnamed newborn is the payoff of a plan to birth a lappet-faced vulture, which has been in place for over a decade since a female vulture named Amana, 18, arrived at the zoo as a mate for 16-year-old male Anubis.
The pair was recommended for breeding by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Lappet-faced Vulture Species Survival Plan.
“The birth of an endangered species is always an occasion for celebration, but this hatching represents a particular success for Zoo Atlanta,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation, in a press release.
“We are always thrilled to see first-time animal parents succeed. This is also a testament to the enormous commitment of our Bird Team, who have worked over a period of many years to provide opportunities and innovations to help this pair flourish.”
The zoo gave Amana and Anubis space to build a nest together, an important part of their mating process, but because they were inexperienced parents they kept the egg in an incubator for 54 days, replacing it in the nest with a “dummy egg.”
The chick hatched on April 24, and was found to be in good health. It was then given back to the parents, who will raise the chick.
They became quickly attached to their newborn — although it seems the first-time parents need some time to figure out how to co-parent:
“Anubis immediately showed signs of being a good father by brooding the chick,” the zoo wrote on Facebook. “Then we gave Amana access to the chick and, surprisingly, Anubis became incredibly defensive! It took a long time for Anubis to let Amana near the chick, and even longer for him to leave them alone together.”
The new birth is an important step forward in repopulating the lappet-faced vulture population. The species, native to Africa, is considered endangered.
According to the zoo, their numbers have declined by 80% recent decades due to poisoning (both intentional and accidental) and collisions with manmade structures.
It is hoped that careful breeding programs like this will help to keep the species alive and increase their population. “The hope is that lappet-faced vultures will be around for generations to come!” the zoo wrote on Facebook.
While the chick isn’t currently on display at the zoo, as its behind-the-scenes with mom and dad, Zoo Atlanta has been sharing many photos of the adorable little bird, so you can follow their Facebook or Instagram pages for updates.
What great news! We’re so glad this adorable baby vulture was finally born, an important step forward to repopulating this endangered species.