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The Vulture Restaurant at HESC

Following on International Vulture Awareness Day last week, read more about how we contribute to the conservation of the species. Visitors have a treat in store when they visit the Vulture Restaurant on our premises.

Feeding frenzy at Vulture Restaurant

The vultures and other birds that were seen at our Vulture Restaurant are not kept in captivity and come and go as they please. The restaurant may be a little foul-smelling at times, but the spectacle of 100 to 150 birds fighting for a bite to eat is most impressive and the sound of more than 200 wings flapping furiously, awesome.
The frantic descent of the birds as the food is put out creates a whirlwind that makes one involuntarily (although totally unnecessarily) clutch whatever is within reach to prevent being sucked in. One can only describe the spectacle as a feeding frenzy.
The restaurant is visited by White-backed, Hooded, Cape and Lappet-faced Vultures, although the latter is seen infrequently. All four are regarded as endangered as a result of the numbers of African vultures having declined drastically over the past 30 years.
Marabou Storks are also regular visitors. With their huge beaks, large black wings with a wingspan of around 2.5 metres and skinny black legs that mostly appear white because they poop on them (to regulate their body heat), Marabous are easily identifiable amongst the vultures when food is put out. With a height of 1.5 metres, they tower high above the vultures.
Our feeding and handling of the vultures are in line with our policy for all creatures at HESC. We don’t try and tame them and in the case of the vultures, we don’t feed them every day. The vultures remain free, don’t become reliant on the food we put out and still find their own prey to survive.

 Value of Vulture Restaurant

Our vulture restaurant contributes to the conservation of vultures in several ways. By offering this safe feeding spot we try to reduce the number of vultures being poached. The birds are fed left-over meat and bones not eaten by the other animals at HESC, even if it is no longer fresh.
Because of the vultures’ corrosive stomach acid, their system allows them to safely digest decaying carcasses infected with certain bacteria, which would otherwise be harmful to other carnivores.
The vulture restaurant also facilitates much-needed research as HESC participates with international partners in the Kruger to Canyons (K2C) Hooded Vulture Project.
We’ll provide more information on the other vulture species in future posts.