Saturday, April 18, 2009

Vulture visits the hospital!

This happened in Februay 2006. We were entering the bird section of our rehab center for some follow-up treatment of birds that had some major wing injuries. We were quite amazed to see a juvenile Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) sitting right on top of the treatment room. I had no clue why would a random Vulture come and sit on such a low height for no apparent reason. Mr. Sarfraz Malik (A true Falconer and Raptor Guru) was then working with us. We felt it was a pretty strange thing for a wild Vulture to come and sit like that. We expected that it would fly away in a while but that didn't happen. It kept on sitting there for more than an hour! May be the bird has some problems. It was also strange that it was tolerating human presence quite a bit. We decided to catch it for further examination.

Sarfrazbhai came up with a plan to noose the bird. This method has worked earlier in a similar situation but is only tried with raptors (with heavy strong necks). Special soft cotton thread was chosen for the purpose to minimize possible injuries. The above photo shows Sarfrazbhai preparing the noose.

We attempted the noose but in vain. Interestingly, inspite of the attempts, the bird didn't bother to escape away. It did step back but no efforts of flying away. 

I thought of trying out my plan. So I got a ladder to take a closer look at the bird.

I wasn't able to see the bird properly as it had stepped back and the ladder was too small. So, I thought may be luring  it with some meat might work. So I got a chunk of juicy red meat and attempted to lure it. It was surely interested in that. It took a step forward.

One step was not enough. I had to get a bit closer. So I distracted it with that piece of meat while I was struggling to get some more height. Sarfrazbhai and an animal keeper were helping me maintain my balance.

The Vulture was now within my (striking) range and that was probably my only chance. One (really) fast sweep and caught the Vulture!

After the safe capture I passed on the bird to Sarfrazbhai and then got down from the ladder myself. I was feeling quite proud of catching a wild Vulture with my 'bare hands'. 
Handling Vultures of the Gyps family may leave some great looking scars on your body. Their beak is build to tear open tough skin and human skin is not so tough as you find out during the bites.
It was most difficult when they have to be captured everyday for their post surgery follow-up treatment. Initially they are housed in a 'restricted activity' cage which is really small to prevent any unwanted injuries in attempts to fly. Taking them out from such small cages is some work, especially when there are over 25 such Vultures for the daily treatment.

Getting back to our story. When we did a general physical examination on the captured bird, we found it had kite-string injuries on the right wing.

Wait a minute, I know this bird!
This Vulture was hand-raised at our rehab center and was released last year!!!! I used to tag all my released birds and this guy had the tag!

How and why did it come exactly to the rehab center after incurring an injury is still a mystery.
Amazing huh?


Pramod said...

Amazing man....

Really touching n interesting!

tank said...

oh i cant belive that u caught it with ur bare hands but it is more strange that it came back ....please name him terminator "i am back "......

Swapna said...

Intresting n strange..