'Gay' vulture couple split up at Jerusalem zoo, then become fathers
In surprising coincidence, spouses of both birds laid eggs on same day, which hatched on same day.
It's an animal story that wouldn't shame an HBO series - the story of two female Griffon vulture chicks, offspring of what used to be Israel's first and only gay vulture couple.
Dashik, father to one vulture chick, and Yehuda, father to the other, once engaged in a fiery romance that made headlines in local and international media. About ten years ago, the two male vultures fell in love, built a joint nest and became a couple. The staff of the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo provided the couple with an artificial egg, which the two parents took turns incubating; and 45 days later, the zoo replaced the egg with a real baby vulture. The two male vultures raised the chick together.
A few years later, however, the relationship broke up, after Yehuda fell for a female vulture that was brought into the aviary. Dashik became depressed, and was eventually moved to the zoological research garden at Tel Aviv University. There, Dashik too set up a nest with a female vulture.
"This is an insane coincidence," said Michal Erez, head of the birds section at the Jerusalem zoo, "but the spouses of both Yehuda and Dashik laid an egg on the same day, the eggs hatched on the same April day, and the two chicks were exactly the same weight. Their weight can vary between 120 and 200 grams, and I've never seen two hatchlings of the exact same weight."
"Yehuda has been living with Beatrix for a few years now, and they are a fantastic couple," Erez said. "Yehuda is more committed. He often doesn't even let Beatrix incubate the eggs and insists on doing it on his own."
The national hatching center at the Biblical Zoo receives all eggs laid by vultures in captivity across the country, and, in the past two years, eggs collected in natural Griffon vulture site in the Golan Heights. As for the offspring of Yehuda and Dashik, they remain in the hatching center. "There's a lack of vultures both in captivity and in the wild, so we decided to increase our reproductive stock," said Erez.
Some two weeks ago, when the chicks reached the 8-kilogram weight of adult vultures, they were moved to the prey birds' aviary. "At first they tried paying visits to other vultures," Erez said, "but when the others realized these were unfamiliar vulture chicks, they attacked. Today, the two keep each other's company.