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Running for Raptors

Posted on: April 30th, 2019 by Alice

This June, the Trust’s National Bird of Prey HospitalTM Manager, Cedric Robert, will be attempting the Hampshire Hoppit Trail Marathon in a bid to raise enough money to fund the hospital for a whole month, £5,353!

“One of the most satisfying parts of my job is being able to give wild birds of prey a second chance at life. Being part of their recovery is a great responsibility as well as a great privilege.”

If you have had a chance to meet Cedric, or perhaps to hear one of his display commentaries, you will know that he is passionate about birds of prey and dedicated to the work that he undertakes in the hospital. This summer, however, he is taking this one step further (quite a few steps in fact) as he has decided to take on the challenge of running the Hampshire Hoppit.

Cedric’s introduction to the Hawk Conservancy Trust followed an extensive interest in wildlife and the natural world.  Previously, Cedric was a marketing apprentice in his homeland of France, and worked part-time in a pet shop. He knew his future was working with animals, though, and so came to the Trust for work experience, going on to join the staff team in 2005.

Cedric will be running the Hampshire Hoppit on Sunday 9 June. Cedric chose this race in particular because he loves the Hampshire countryside.  The rough terrain certainly makes it the ultimate challenge for runners.

Having completed five marathons to date, you’d think Cedric may be a little more confident with this challenge but he is approaching this one in the same way as all previous attempts, though with the added challenge that he wants to beat all previous times he’s recorded and finish in less than 3 hours and 40 minutes. Cedric will be training 3-4 times a week and began his regime at the end of February.

£5,353 would have a significant impact on what the Trust can achieve in its rehabilitation work. For example, this sort of amount could provide funding for the following:

If you would like to donate to support Cedric’s marathon, simply go to www.justgiving.com/cedric-robert2

Thank you

A remarkable story of a lone breeding vulture

Posted on: April 29th, 2019 by Hannah Shaw

Thomas Johnson, a researcher associated with the Hawk Conservancy Trust and Leeds University, studied the breeding behaviour of White-backed Vultures at two sites near Kimberley in South Africa using camera traps on 10 nesting trees.

Thomas observed an extremely interesting, but very unexpected, solo egg incubation attempt by a White-backed Vulture including the longest uninterrupted nest attendance ever recorded for this species: 3 days 18 hours and 40 minutes. The time-lapse video below shows this unusually long ‘sit’ on the nest by the dedicated solo breeder. This exceptional attendance period is much longer than has been previously reported in other studies, and the vulture spent significantly more time at the nest than would have been required if it was sharing duties with a partner.

African White-backed Vultures are monogamous which means they have one breeding partner, which in most cases they will stay with for their whole life. Both the male and female birds share incubation and feeding responsibilities equally. This type of breeding behaviour is common in birds as it enables one parent to forage whilst the other incubates, so the egg or chick is always attended and less vulnerable to predators.

It is an especially effective strategy for White-backed Vultures as they have such a long breeding period. On average, they will incubate the egg for 56 days, followed by 120-125 days of rearing the chick and an additional 5-6 months where the fledgling chick is still partially dependent on the adults. This amounts to almost a year in total and is challenging for a pair of birds; it would be virtually impossible for a single bird.

After laying the egg, the lone breeder was present for the majority of the time (79%) until it sadly abandoned the egg after 30 days. A second bird did make an appearance at the nest after the first 4 days, seemingly to relieve incubation duties; however, it left again, never to reappear, after just 5 minutes.

It is unknown why the lone bird abandoned the egg at 30 days; it is possible that it was too dehydrated or malnourished to continue without detriment to its own health.

Read the full paper.

Father’s Day

Posted on: April 26th, 2019 by Alice

This Father’s Day, why not treat your father or grandfather to a day out with us. We’ll be offering a special barbecue during the day and you can enjoy our full daily timetable of activities. Don’t forget to pack the picnic blanket!

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Fantastic news from Pakistan!

Posted on: April 15th, 2019 by Hannah Shaw

Four pairs of Asian White-backed Vultures are incubating eggs at our breeding centre in Changa Manga in Pakistan. If all eggs hatch, this will be the most successful year to date for the centre. There are now 21 vultures at the facility, including 15 adults and 6 younger birds. We have successfully fledged two chicks each year between 2016 and 2018 and for 2019, in our most promising year so far, there are four breeding pairs of vultures who are currently incubating eggs! We have cameras installed to keep track of their progress, and we are very hopeful that there will be four new additions to our flock in a few weeks time!

We have been working to conserve vultures in Pakistan for the past 12 years, partnered with WWF-Pakistan, since populations of vultures in this region plummeted by more than 99.9% as a result of a veterinary drug called Diclofenac. Our captive breeding centre in Changa Manga Forest Reserve is the only conservation initiative in Pakistan that is dedicated to holding a safe population of Critically Endangered Asian White-backed Vultures with the aim of releasing birds into the wild. The centre has a large main aviary, and four smaller aviaries, and livestock enclosures. The project aims to maintain a healthy captive population of these vultures so they can breed naturally with the ultimate aim of releasing birds into the wild.

All the birds are monitored on a daily basis, and a vet makes regular visits to the centre to ensure the birds are healthy, as shown in the photo below. During the breeding season, the birds are fed seven days a week to ensure the fast-growing chicks are provided with enough food. Every year, all the nests in the aviary are repaired and cleaned and old nesting material is replaced with fresh branches and sticks for the vultures to build their nests. The perches are repaired, and new ones are installed where needed. A variety of perches and nesting materials are provided so vultures can carry out the same natural behaviours they would in the wild. The centre is also very important for education and in 2018 more than 1500 students visited to learn about the importance and conservation of vultures in Pakistan. Find out more about this project.

 

 

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