In late December 2013 a white backed vulture fledgling was found at the base of a tree in the Zambezi National Park and brought to The Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust‘s facilities, it was very ill and unable to fly. Slowly we were able to improve the bird’s health and get it to both eat and drink on its own. Unfortunately, its wing was severely deformed, suspected as a result of a collision with another vulture or toxicity when it was still in the nest. The vulture (now called “Judge”) will never be able to fly, so the Trust agreed to look after Judge for the remainder of her life.

Judge is a very social animal and enjoys the company of people especially her keepers and when she has visitors who come for an interaction. Judge is very inquisitive and is always interested in noises and commotion at the Trust, often hopping over to see what is going on, and sometimes even participating in the action.

Through training as a fledgling, Judge has become an ‘Ambassador for Vultures’, educating local school children and teachers about the critical need for vulture conservation through our weekly Conservation Education Program. As well as with schools, Judge makes an appearance at agricultural shows, air rallies, and hotel presentations and has become the face for vulture conservation here in Zimbabwe. Read more about the Trust’s Vulture Conservation work.

judge-portrait

Judge is an African White-Backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) – one of the 4 species of vultures found in Zimbabwe. This species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Redlist.

White-backed vultures have a lifespan of up to approximately 50 years, breeding pairs mate for life and have only one chick per year. Because of these slow growth and breeding rates, white-backed vultures are extremely vulnerable to threats such as malicious poisoning of wildlife. Find out more about the threats facing White-Backed Vultures on our Vulture Conservation page.

Make a donation to help with Judge’s upkeep.

If you would like to meet Judge and learn more about her role as a Vulture Ambassador during your visit to Victoria Falls, please Contact Us to arrange a visit to the Trust facilities.

Ambassador Animals

Ambassador animals are important and powerful educational “tools” that provide emotional experiences and can send strong messages about conservation and wildlife. Ambassador animals help foster an appreciation for the natural world and are powerful catalysts for learning. We’ve seen time and time again how a walk with Sylvester or an interaction with Judge can provide a compelling experience that forges a personal connection with nature for our visitors and children.

Ambassador animals help foster an appreciation for the natural world and are powerful catalysts for learning.

There is a growing body of evidence that supports the validity of using ambassador animals to enhance delivery of cognitive messages, and the length of interaction directly impacts the emotional attachment and knowledge garnered.

Allowing visitors and school children to spend quality time with our ambassador animals lengthens the potential time for learning and overall impact, improving one’s knowledge and understanding of wildlife and wildlife conservation.

It goes without saying that the Trust recognizes the many benefits ambassador animals provide. We have a strong commitment to guarantee that the welfare, health and safety needs of the animals, handlers, and public are met and to ensure that conservation messages are received by their audience. For more information on our ambassador family, please Contact Us.