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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Israeli raptors may soon soar again

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Now hatching at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo: chicks of the endangered griffon vulture, soon to be released into the wild.

The griffon vulture was once very common in Israel. Fifty years ago, more than 1,000 pairs bred on cliffs from the Golan and Galilee in the north to the Judean Hills and Negev Desert in the south. Today, due to a variety of factors, only about 40 pairs remain, and the vulture is on the edge of extinction.

But efforts are underway to improve the situation, thanks to the National Center for Artificial Incubation of Raptor Eggs, operating at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo ( since 1998. Every year, the center incubates up to 15 vulture eggs. Recently, the first chick of 2011 hatched.

The chicks are fed using a special stuffed vulture device, so they don't get used to human caretakers. The zoo does all it can to ensure the young raptors will have the best possible chance of survival once they're released back into the wild.