Exotic African Vulture Still Missing from Jacksonville Zoo | News

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Exotic African Vulture Still Missing from Jacksonville Zoo
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is hoping a First Coast bird watcher will be able to spot a white-backed African vulture that escaped from the zoo late Thursday morning.

As of Sunday, the zoo received tips on some possible spottings.  So far none of those tips have panned out.

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In a release from the zoo, spokesperson Gina Stiles said Hodari, who lived in the giraffe habitat, somehow managed to free himself from the restrictive band on one of his wings and fly away.

Shortly thereafter, Stiles said employees noticed that the bird was in a tree on zoo grounds and tried to catch it.  They later spotted him in the parking lot of North Jacksonville Baptist Church, next to the zoo, but Hodari eluded them again. 

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The last time anyone from the zoo saw Hodari, Stiles said he was flying north.

That leaves the zoo with just one white-backed African vulture: Hodari's mate, Raja.  Tony Vecchio, the zoo's executive director, said they're holding out hope that the missing bird will come back.  If he doesn't, Vecchio said he's not sure if the zoo will replace Hodari.
 
Hodari came to Jacksonville from the National Aviary in Pittsburgh back in 2006, Stiles said, but she was not sure how long he'd been housed there. 

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Because he's been in captivity for so long, Hodari's wings aren't very strong.  Still, Stiles said he would be able to soar if he caught some big enough wind gusts.

But he'll have to be careful where he flies.  Vultures are scavengers, so they eat things that are already dead. Vecchio is concerned that many of the places where Hodari would find dead animals are dangerous, like near roadways.

Vecchio hopes Hodari's affinity for people will help someone spot him.

"The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens animal staff are very fond of Hodari and are worried about his safety," said Vecchio.  "We're anxious to get him back home where he belongs." 

The zoo asks that anyone who spots the missing bird should send an email to darnellg@jacksonvillezoo.org.

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