International Vulture Awareness Day on Saturday 5th September was a huge success with over 140 organisations around the world taking part.
The aim was for each participating organisation to carry out their own activities that highlight the conservation and awareness of vultures as an ecologically vital group of birds that face a range of serious threats in many areas of the world.
The International Vulture Awareness Day has grown from Vulture Awareness Days run by the Birds of Prey Working Group in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England, who decided to work together and expand the initiative into an international event. It is now recognised that a co-ordinated international day will publicise the conservation of vultures to a wider audience and highlight the important work being carried out by the world's vulture conservationists.
Here at Gauntlet, the day was marked with a full itinerary of educational talks and displays. Over the years we have earned a reputation for our vulture restaurants, where staff hand feed some of the collection's huge vultures whilst giving an informative talk about the birds. These formed an important part of our presentations for International Vulture Awareness Day.
The first vulture restaurant was held in the largest aviary that houses Griffon and White Backed Vultures.
Althought these birds wouldn't meet in the wild they live quite happily together here, with the smaller African White Backed Vultures giving way to their larger asian cousins.
But it's at feeding time that they really come alive.
Graham has developed an amazing relationship with these birds and mimics vulture behaviour and body language to show how the vultures behave and interact in the wild. It takes great knowledge and skill, and not a little
courage, to get the best out of the vultures and leave their aviary with all ten fingers still intact!!
The second vulture restaurant was held in the Hooded Vultures aviary. These vultures pose much less of a 'physical challenge' for the staff, but they are still
impressive and played an important part in getting over the message of vulture conservation.
Gauntlet has three hooded vultures, Shadow and the two currently in the main hooded vulture aviary.
They are called Kimberley and Dronfield, after two places in South Africa where our conservation work with White Backed Vultures is done.
Here they pay close attention to Jenny waiting for the food to appear.
The main events for the day were the two flying displays that featured a full range of vultures from Gauntlet's collection, including Jet the Black Vulture and Smokey the White Backed Vulture.
Smokey was really the main ambassador for the day as it is White Backed Vultures that are suffering in the wild, both in South Africa and especially in Asia where
the Oriental White Backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) is on the brink of extinction. Raising awareness of this situation is the main purpose of International Vulture Awareness Day.
The finale of the day came when Gauntlet's renowned team of kites joined the vultures in the arena. Numbers of Kites in the UK have recovered recently, but are nowhere
near the huge populations of 200 years ago, when kites were this country's main scavenger, making them Britain's 'vulture'. So we felt it was a fitting end to the day
to have 14 kites and vultures in the skies over Knutsford!