The Denver Zoo is now home to a "lucky" cinereous vulture from Mongolia.
The young bird, named Aztai for the Mongolian word for "lucky," was rescued and brought to the United States after zoo conservation experts determined she would not be able to survive in the wild due to a damaged wing. Visitors can now see Aztai in her new home outside the old Pachyderm Building.
Aztai was discovered by Denver Zoo conservation biologists as they studied cinereous vultures, their nests and migration and movement patterns at Mongolia's Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in August 2010. While taking measurements of chicks in the nests, they found a chick with multiple, significant open fractures on its left wing. They weren't sure how the bird became injured. Staff cared for the chick, providing food and shelter, and fortunately the bird survived; however her wing was permanently damaged. She would never be able to fly.
Zoo staff knew a vulture that couldn't fly would not survive in the wild and decided to bring the chick to Denver Zoo. This decision provided a place for the bird while improving the genetic diversity of the North American zoo population of less than 50 individuals.