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Taking to the sky with vultures

Meet Kevin. An Egyptian vulture and my guide for the day. Kevin is one of two Egyptian vultures at the Parahawking project in Pokhara, Nepal. Kevin is an ambassador for vulture conservation and due to his contact with humans from an early age is unable to be released back into the wild.

Sadly the vulture population in Nepal has declined severely in the last decade due to a drug called Diclofenac. Diclofenac is administered by locals to their old and dying cattle to relieve pain. When the cow dies the drug remains in the animal's system and is passed onto the vultures whilst feeding on the carcass. Diclofenac causes kidney failure in a vulture within 24 hours. A 2009 census on the Oriental white backed vulture population in Nepal found only 25 individuals.

The Parahawking project, founded by Scott Mason, educates the public on the conservation of vultures and is home to several large raptors including another Egyptian vulture; Bob.

Bob and Kevin are used as guides whilst paragliding. They soar through the air showing the pilots where the best thermals are for paragliding. As a reward the passenger feeds the vultures small chunks of meat in flight. After their exercise Bob and Kevin are kept within the sanctuary of the Parahawking project.

Having never been paragliding before it was a thrill to be airborne with the snow capped Annapurna mountain range as a backdrop and lake Pokhara below. Soaring through the air like a bird of prey and taking in the breath taking scenery from a different angle. Life seemed to stand still for moment. As though this experience wasn't enough it was made more special by following a beautiful Egyptian vulture through the air and have him land on my arm every few minutes as I glided effortlessly through the air. Looking back, it seems like a story from a fairy tale.

As Pokhara lake got closer Kevin headed home. I was brought back to earth with a perfect landing thanks to my pilot AJ. During a cup of tea we were educated on the plight of the vultures in Nepal.

Pokhara is the only place in the world where you can parahawk. It's a unique adventure, a worthy cause and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again!

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