By Aimee Braniff Cree

**EXCLUSIVE**

BREATHTAKING PORTRAITS of critically endangered vultures have been captured.

Shots show the African Hooded Vulture at the Gauntlet Birds of Prey and Vulture Park in Knutsford, UK.

It is believed there are only 197,000 hooded vultures of all species left today, they are critically endangered with the number decreasing.

Other shots show a White Backed Vulture data suggests there are only 270,000 left and in today’s climate only one in every thousand is surviving to adulthood. That is a 99.9% decline for the species.

African Hooded Vulture

These shots were captured in an effort to shine a light on the crisis happening for conservation amongst avian species.

All these stunning images were captured by freelance zoo and pet photographer Gary Cox (52) at the Gauntlet Birds of Prey and Vulture Park.

Gary shot these incredible birds at the on his Canon 80D to help raise awareness for the crisis affecting this special species.

“Fourteen of 22 species of vulture are now considered to be critically endangered. The hooded vulture is top of this list with its population drastically reducing due to poisoning by poachers,” said Gary.

“The vultures circle a carcass of an animal to bring other predators to feed. They themselves then feed off the leftovers.

“However, the authorities realised that this could also be an indication of where the poachers may be. The poachers then also realise this so have been trying to kill all the vultures by poisoning the carcass.

“The result is the tragic speedy decline in the population.

Eurasian Griffon Vulture

“The Bird of Prey and Vulture Park in Knutsford is trying to educate people about this in their bird shows.

“They are also selling wristbands to raise money to attempt to tackle this problem but I feel there is so much more that needs to be done.

“The detail is key in these shots. Vultures have a varied set of textures, from the feathers to skin tones and large eyes.

“They may not be widely recognised as a beautiful bird but they are unique and stunning in their own right.

“I am always just hoping to get the birds in focus, they move around a lot. They are so incredible looking they don’t need to do anything dynamic to look good on camera.

“They do appreciate the images but people are divided about this misunderstood bird. Some think they look stunning whilst others think they are ugly.

“Either way it is important that people understand their importance in the circle of life and about their current crisis.

White-backed Vulture

Vultures are extremely important to the ecosystem as they clean away the remains of dead animals, removing toxins from the environment that could be deadly to other animals.

“If there were no vultures then there would be a knock on effect and many more animals could become endangered as a result.

“But aside from that they are a living species who deserve to be on this planet as much as anything else does.”

ENDS