With their large wingspan and spectacular flights, vultures are without any doubt impressive birds, capable of leaving a lasting memory in all those that see them at close range. One Spanish veterinary though will certainly remember griffon vultures for ever – through a rather unique and unlikely angle. He once found a griffon vulture imprisoned in the entrails of a horse carcass!
Almost two years ago Dr. Juan Luis Muñoz Roldan was working with livestock in a large estate in Ronda, Andalusia when he detected, in a nearby property, the desiccated carcass of a horse. When Dr. Muñoz Roldan went to investigate, he saw something yellow flashing inside the abdomen of the dead horse! Dr. Roldan was surprised to find a trapped griffon vulture with a yellow wing tag inside the carcass. The bird, a weakened young griffon vulture, could not come out, as the dried-out skin of the horse was too tough to force.
Subsequent enquiries revealed that the horse had died about 10 days before, and it had been eaten by the vultures soon after death, so the griffon was already trapped there for at least one week.
Dr. Roldan could not break the horse´s skin alone – it was that tough!, so he went for help to a nearby village (La Algaba). With the help of a knife they finally could punch a bigger hole in the horse´s leathery skin, and free the griffon, which ate immediately a couple of dead chicken, before being taken to a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center.
Griffons often enter the entrails of large carcasses they are feeding on – and sometimes they eat so much that they have some difficulty moving around. This individual may have squeezed through a hole to gorge on the horse´s entrails – and then, bloated and full, became trapped inside the carcass, which dried out in the following days.
Photos: Dr. Juan Luis Muñoz Roldan