The disappearance of the vulture

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I was a zookeeper at the Córdoba Zoo in 1992 and early in the year 1993.

When I finished secondary school, I stopped working there to dedicate myself entirely to biology studies and to starting another chapter of my life.

However, I continued going to the zoo, whether to attend classes at the Applied Zoology Centre for ethology studies (science which studies animals’ behavior), for a certain class or conference or simply to visit all my friends — human and animals. To this day, I’ve always considered the zoo like my backyard in Córdoba, so I’ve always kept in touch.

Even in 2004, I went back to be a volunteer at the zoo’s hospital facility during one on my trips from Montreal.

I’ve always taken a critical look at the way animals were provided care with in every zoo I visited; I didn’t always agree with the management’s decisions and I’ve talked on multiple occasions with managers to try to change the situation.

On other occasions, I made decisions on my own, with the help of some friends who were former zookeepers and biology students. In an Argentina zoo (that I won’t name to avoid any problems), they had a young vulture they left loose on the pathways and it had its wings trimmed to avoid its escape. It was very friendly, being raised by humans; it saw us as food and care providers.

We had seen it several times and it made us very sad to think that this animal, born onsite, would spend all his life in captivity.

So we decided to « abduct » the bird, hope its wing would grow and to let him loose at the camp. With my two friends (who I won’t name as well), we planned the abduction.

We used an empty fabric backpack and an adhesive tape, and then we divided the tasks. We caught the bird, shut its beak using the tape so that we wouldn’t have to hear him complain and put it in the backpack.

One of my friends came out of the zoo and was on the other side of the bars of the fence, where were supposed to slip the bag; and us, the other group of girls, started walking towards the inside part of the fence.

A security guard passed close to us and looked at us with suspicious eyes, so we started talking and laughing as loud as we could in order for him not to hear the noises coming from the bag.

Fortunately, we could easily slip the bag between the bars of the fence. From there, we took a taxi and went to an empty department of the zoo we could use.

The vulture stayed there a few days during which we would feed him with pieces of meat.

We then brought it to the camp, where, with time, he got used to flying and finding food on its own.

I personally didn’t live at that camp but the news I received was the vulture ended up being free, which was our goal.

We never knew what the staff of that zoo had as a hypothesis regarding the mysterious disappearance of the young vulture.

Author: Helena Arroyo

Translation: Noëlla Moussa

Amelie Delobel

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