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NATURE

Gay birds of a feather parent together at Israeli zoo

vultures
Dashik and Yahuda, two male vultures, have raised two baby birds

 
VIDEO
CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports on a surprising development in a program to reintroduce vultures to the wild in Israel.
Windows Media 28K 80K

September 18, 1999
Web posted at: 7:24 p.m. EDT (2324 GMT)

From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Zoo keepers involved in an ambitious breeding program for endangered Griffin vultures are getting a helping hand from a vulture couple that, ironically, doesn't breed.

Keepers noticed that Dashik and Yahuda, two male vultures at Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, had built a nest together and were mating. So they decided to give the couple an artificial egg to see what would happen.

"They were sitting incubating perfectly," said the zoo's head keeper, Itzik Yadid. "If they are incubating so good, sharing between the two of them, the next step will be obviously to give them a chick to raise."

So far, Dashik and Yahuda have raised two baby birds, Diva and Adi Gordon, with results that exceeded expectations

"We're very proud of them. We think they've done a marvelous job," said bird keeper Sharon Sterling. "They've behaved extremely well, the best parents we've ever seen."

Keepers had initially thought about separating Dashik and Yahuda and trying to bring in a female to create a heterosexual vulture couple.

vultures
Dashik and Yahuda were given a chick to raise after they were given an artificial egg to incubate  

"And then we said, 'Why should we do it? If they are together, if they are raising a chick together, why should we separate them?'" Yadid said. "So we decided to let them stay together and keep raising chicks together."

There is a reason beyond mere curiosity for seeking parenting help from the gay vultures. Normally, female Griffin vultures lay only one egg a year. But if the egg is taken from the mother, she will lay a second egg, a process known as "double clutching."

So by providing suitable surrogate parents for the eggs that are taken, bird keepers can increase the number of vultures that are bred.

Griffin vultures, once a common sight in the Mideast, have nearly disappeared. The zoo is trying to reintroduce them through the breeding program.



RELATED SITES:
Golan animal poisoning called 'ecological disaster' - The Jerusalem Post
Poison Aimed at Wolves Has Disastrous Effects on Golan Wildlife - Israel Wire
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