A pair of rare red-headed vultures sent to Thai wildlife sanctuary to mate

Valentine’s Day, traditionally celebrated each year on February 14, is the time when people express their love, normally by giving red roses. For a small group of dedicated conservationists, however, it’s a chance to express their love for a pair of very rare red-headed vultures, sending them back into the wild to mate in the sanctuary of the wildlife of Huai Kha Khaeng in Western Thailand.

Red-headed vultures are classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The birds disappeared from the wild in Thailand 30 years ago when the last flock of around 30 died on February 14, 1992 at Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary after eating a poisoned carcass, used as bait by illegal hunters to trap tigers. A few, however, have survived in captivity in a zoo and at the sanctuary‘s breeding station.

Since 2014, the Zoological Parks Organization of Thailand, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Seub Nakhasathien Foundation and Kasetsart University have jointly discussed a project to reintroduce vultures red-capped in their former habitat in Thailand.

The project took off in 2020 when a research team began studying the behavior of two vultures in captivity, one at Nakhon Ratchasima Zoo and the other at a breeding facility in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. .

On January 31 last year, the zoo’s 20-year-old bird laid an egg, but after two months it failed to hatch. In January this year, Nui laid another egg and the research team is eagerly waiting for it to hatch.

Hoping that the second egg would hatch and to prepare for the return of the two vultures to the wild, the authorities decided to build a huge cage in the wildlife sanctuary to house the two vultures along with the egg.

The two vultures were brought two months ago to the breeding station of the wildlife reserve, to allow them to familiarize themselves with the environment, before being released today in the huge cage.

The research team performed an exercise yesterday to make sure everything would go as planned.

The cage is located in rough terrain and the team decided to take the two vultures out of the breeding station at 6am this morning, to limit the stress on the birds.

It is hoped that within the next 1-2 years the two will mate and lay an egg, which will be taken to the breeding station to hatch in an incubator.

The cage measures approximately 20 x 20 x 40 meters. It contains a small pond, a watering system and an artificial nest. It is equipped with CCTV for 24 hour surveillance and is surrounded by an electric fence to protect birds.

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