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A Vulture Named Lucky

A cinereous vulture from Mongolia has an important Colorado connection.

A cinereous vulture from Mongolia has an important Colorado connection. Aztai, which means “lucky” in Mongolian, was discovered by Denver Zoo at four months old, on the ground, near her broken nest in Mongolia, during our conservation work there in 2010. She had significant fractures to her left wing.

She survived; however her wing was permanently injured. Denver Zoo staff nurtured the baby vulture by providing food and shelter.

Camp manager, Ultzii, became quite fond of Aztai and during the long Mongolian winter he would spend time with her, talking to Aztai. Denver Zoo knew a vulture that couldn’t fly would not make it in the wild and made the decision to bring the chick to Denver. Two winters later, adorable Aztai arrived at Denver Zoo in July 2012.

Aztai now explores her yard each morning at Denver Zoo thanks to our ongoing field conservation work in Mongolia. Aztai is also an animal ambassador and helps educate the world about the plight of vultures.

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Our remarkable ambassador animals do what books and electronic devices cannot.

They enable visitors to put a face to their counterparts in the wild. Meeting animals eye to eye brings out the wonder in all of us.

Cinereous vultures (also known as Eurasian Black Vultures) have suffered from habitat destruction, illegal hunting and poisoning. They are scavengers and have the very important role of helping stop the spread of disease by feeding on deceased animals. These large vultures are among the heaviest birds in the world, reaching weights of up to 22 pounds.

As cinereous vulture populations decline globally, the conservation area we work in, Ikh Nart in Mongolia, has been shown to be an especially important breeding area and is home to the highest recorded concentration of nests in Mongolia. Due to their critical part in nutrient cycling, understanding and protecting cinereous vultures and their breeding habitats are vital to their future…and our own.

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