Vulture: Cancer Survivors

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TWO vultures who made a full recovery from cancer could be circling above participants in a charity run next month.

But there is no danger of these birds of prey picking off the stragglers in the inaugural Billericay Race for Life, in aid of Cancer Research UK. Instead organisers hope the participation of cancer survivors Gonzo and Mr Lurky, who are based at the Imperial Bird of Prey Academy in Barleylands, will help boost the fundraising efforts of the thousands of women running the course at the same venue.

Academy owner Nigel King said: “Because they’ve both had cancer, and both recovered, we thought it was quite apt and quite fitting for them to take part.

“It’s not just humans that get cancer and, because it’s such a novel thing to have two vultures in the race, we thought we would be able to raise quite a lot of money for the charity.

“It’s just something a bit different.”

Gonzo, a six-year-old hooded vulture, had cancer of the preen gland ā€“ the gland at the base of the tail that secretes oil for preening ā€“ two years ago.

An operation to remove the tumour left him without a tail and the bottom two vertebrae of his spine.

Mr Lurky, a 17-year-old turkey vulture, had a rare form of skin cancer on his face leaving him with only part of a nostril.

Weighing about 4lbs each, the vultures will take part in the race, either on the arm of a handler, walking with the other runners or flying overhead ā€“ it could take them less than three minutes to fly the 5km course.

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