A 22-year old Nubian vulture slowly starving to death because of beak trouble has been saved by the Ramat Gan Safari surgeons.
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The operation was crucial more than to the bird himself. It could be critical to the species, since the unnamed avian is the last breeding male of his species left in Israel.
Some years ago, the bird, who was born at the Hi Bar Hacarmel animal rescue center and has lived there all his life, suffered a blow to the beak, after which it grew crooked – like our nails, beaks keep growing throughout life. Finally he couldn't close his beak properly, and couldn’t eat.
As he grew thin, his keepers brought him to the Safari wild animal hospital for help.
After mild sedation, the doctors used special small files and saws to reshape his upper and lower beak segments in a procedure that took about half an hour. Lady vultures would never know he'd been a mess.
Apparently, like dentures, reshaped beaks take some getting used to. But after some days the bird adapted and began eating his guts nicely and now a young female is expected to be arriving shortly, from the Safari itself, for breeding.
When Israel was founded in 1948, Nubian vultures, also known as lappet-faced vultures and the biggest among the vulture species, existed throughout the Negev and Sinai deserts. The Israeli version was even classified as a sub-species – the Negev vulture (Torgos tracheliotos negevensis). They have been extinct in Israel since 1989, mainly because of poisoning, and only about 5,700 individuals and believed to remain throughout Africa and the Middle East.