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NFWC home to rare Griffon Vulture, one of three left in the United States

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Posted at 8:55 AM, Nov 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-21 08:55:23-05

A rare Eurasian Griffon Vulture is calling the Big Bend her home.

Housed at the North Florida Wildlife Center in Jefferson County, Olympia is one of three Griffon Vultures left in the United States.

Her species is mostly found in Europe with only about 640,000 left in the world.

"We wanted to bring her here to the wildlife center because unfortunately she can't breed with the other two, they're too old to breed," Founder of the NFWC Ryan Reines said. "We really wanted to use her as an educational ambassador here at the center."

Reines said he got her from a center in New York six months and made the trip by himself.

"People don't normally go to a zoo to see a vulture, so when they come here and they see her that is the first and last time they're going to see a Eurasian Griffon Vulture," Haley Johnson, who works at NFWC with Olympia, said.

Reines said a lot of people come to the center and see her the first time saying, "Oh wow, she's really pretty". He said her beauty shocks people because in their head they preserve vultures as ugly, due to a societal perception.

He said it's important for people to understand how critical they are to the ecosystem.

"These guys are scavengers, they pick up pretty much anything they see on the ground out in the wild," Johnson said. "That's really important when they go out and eat the carasses clean up anything on the ground they're helping protect the bacteria in the soil and in the ground."

Johnson said studies show if they didn't do that the soil would be toxic and harmful to the environment.

Reines said they're planning to use Olympia to breed the species in the U.S. for the first time in about 20 years.