Meet “Lord Richard” the 43-year-old female Turkey Vulture

There are several reasons why I love living in California such as the breathtaking landscapes and the abundance of wildlife among others. But none of that would matter if the people of California weren’t so ambitious about an eco-friendly approach to preserving and protecting the wildlife of this beautiful state.

Within this culture, one organization was created with the intention to aid the injured native wildlife: the Lindsay Wildlife Experience located in Walnut Creek, California. The Lindsay Museum, as the locals know it, counts as an animal hospital where injured wildlife is brought to get aid, be rehabilitated, and be reintroduced into their natural ecosystem. Those animals that can’t be reintroduced back into their habitat, stay at the museum and become ambassadors to educate children and adults through classes, presentations, and exhibits. Currently, they count with more than 40 animal ambassadors that range from invertebrates, reptiles, and birds to small mammals like opossums, squirrels, and porcupines.

On June 30, I attended the 43rd birthday celebration of one of their most famous and admired ambassadors:  a turkey vulture named “Lord Richard”. While visiting the museum I learned many facts and stories about Lord Richard, and turkey vultures in general, told by her handler.

Lord Richard has been in captivity since hatching in 1974 so she became attached to her handlers and never was released back into the wild. For many years it was believed that she was a male (that’s the reason she got a male name), until one day she laid an egg. Even though she looks big and heavy, she is only 3 pounds which is the average size of a turkey vulture. Turkey vultures don’t have sharp and long talons like raptors thus they are not good hunters and rely on scavenging. Since they can’t attack prey, they don’t have a strong mechanism of defense, so when in danger they throw up. If they are being attacked by a mammal, the mammal will instantly retract from the putrefying smell of the vomit.

Before visiting the Lindsay Wildlife Museum I didn’t know much about Turkey Vultures and never considered coming close to one, so it was a fun learning experience. Most people associate them with death and nastiness, but I learned that they keep diseases in check through their strong and acidic digestive tract, and without them, most mammals, including us, will be in constant danger of many biological threats. I am eager to go back soon and learn more about the native ecosystem of this place. So If you ever find yourself around this area, consider visiting this place. You would not only learn about Northern California’s ecosystem but you’d also be helping in aiding and rehabilitating injured animals.

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