Saturday 24 March 2018

Tayto Park welcomes endangered white-headed vultures

Staff are delighted a pair of white-headed vultures are now at Tayto Park, says Mike Brasser
Staff are delighted a pair of white-headed vultures are now at Tayto Park, says Mike Brasser

It was a case of from Africa to Ashbourne for a pair of rare white-headed vultures who have been unveiled at their new Tayto Park home.

The birds of prey, which are on the endangered species list, arrived into the country last month.

The white-headed vultures - the only breeding pair in Ireland - caused plenty of excitement at the theme park and zoo.

They are critically endangered and face the serious threat of extinction.

Zookeepers at Tayto are therefore hoping for a strong bond to form between the pair to allow for breeding at their new home in Co Meath.

The white-headed vulture is part of a captive population managed and monitored by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria's European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).


"The main reason we wanted to welcome them to Tayto Park is that they are very rare in the wild and having them here means we are part of a very important international breeding programme known as an EEP," a spokesman for the park told the Herald.

Mike Brasser, head of the World of Raptors at Tayto Park, said staff were thrilled to have the species join the zoo and said there was "plenty of excitement" following their arrival.

The vultures have yet to be named.

"We look forward to introducing them to the public in March when we reopen and hopefully getting the public to help out with naming the distinctive duo," Mr Brasser added.

Known to actively hunt live prey, the rare bird is often seen feeding on fresh carrion and, in order to supplement their diet, they will regularly eat stranded fish, locusts and termites.

Native to Africa, white-headed vultures will occupy hot, dry, open plains.

The vultures become the second critically endangered bird species to call Tayto Park home, following one of the world's most critically endangered birds, the Edwards's Pheasant.

The species is declining at a rapid rate, emphasising the importance of Tayto Park receiving a breeding pair of the vultures.

Pairs of the species that breed have a success rate of between 65-75pc but up to 61pc of pairs do not attempt to breed each year.

This means it could be a while before offspring grace Tayto Park.

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