My name is Scott Mason, in 2001 I embarked on a journey that would change the course of my life forever. During an already lifechanging trip around the world I found myself in Nepal where I was asked to rescue 2 Black Kite chicks from a fallen tree. Their nest was destroyed leaving me no choice but to hand raise the chicks, they were just days old. This would make it almost impossible to release them back to the wild.
A chance encounter with a paragliding instructor led us to see if we could train these two birds to fly with paragliders. The idea of flying alongside these birds and interacting with them in their own natural environment seemed like a dream. It would also offer them the enrichment they deserved whilst providing a unique opportunity to learn from them and harness their natural ability to conserve energy, they would become our guides in the sky by leading us to the best thermals. We decided to call this new activity Parahawking.
The experiment was a huge success and the Parahawking Project went from a pie in the sky idea to an internationally renowned and award winning adventure activity and conservation project. Over the last 16 years 100 of birds were rescued, rehabilitated and released under the projects raptor rescue scheme. Birds that could not be released due to unavoidable human imprinting, were trained to fly with the paragliders, just like the first Black Kites.
Two such birds were Egyptian Vultures Kevin and Bob who were handed into us as rescue birds in 2006 and 2008 respectively. Kevin and Bob were the ultimate parahawking birds, we were now able to offer tandem Parahawking flights so that members of the public could share this incredible experience. They quickly became ambassadors not just for the Parahawking Project but for struggling vultures across Asia.
Over the last 20 years, Vultures across Asia have been rapidly declining. The cause is Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti inflammatory drug used to treat livestock, such as cows. Ageing cows are administered the drug to alleviate pain and suffering, and being sacred animals in Hindu culture, they are not euthanised but left to live out their natural life until they die of old age. When vultures feed from the discarded cow carcass, Diclofenac causes liver and kidney failure and kills the them. 100's of vultures feeding from just one contaminated cow carcass would kill millions of vultures resulting in a decline of up to 99% of some species in a matter of a few years.
Vultures across Asia were now on the brink of extinction and as the primary consumers of carrion in both Asia and Africa, they consume carcasses of both domestic and wild animals; thereby, cleaning the environment (Thakur et al.,2012). The loss of vultures would have a profound ecological effect and would encourage the spread of other diseases such as rabies. There was now a worldwide conservation effort to halt the decline of Asia's vultures and protect the few remaining birds in the wild. In 2006 Diclofenac was banned as a vetinary drug and alternative drugs such as Meloxicam were heavily promoted. In addition a number of vulture conservation projects was established across India and Nepal, including Vulture Safe Zones or Vulture Restaurants where wild vultures could feed from safe food.
Vultures are very misunderstood animals, they are considered unsavoury, gross and disgusting creatures. This image could not be further from the truth so we set about trying to change peoples opinions of Vultures. Though our tandem Parahawking activities, we were able to provide an opportunity for people to connect with Vultures in a very unique way. Sharing the sky and interacting with them in their own environment gave people a true insight into their characters and individual personalities. If you didn’t appreciate vultures before your parahawking experience, you did now.
Not only were we able to educate people on the importance of vultures, the Parahawking Project was able to raise significant funds through it's commercial Parahawking activities. In fact in the last 10 years, the Parahawking project has raised and donated around $50,000. This money was used to set up and fund the Gachowk Vulture safe feeding site in Pokhara, Nepal of which we are now the official patrons.
The Parahawking Project became recognised the world over for it's unique education and conservation message winning grants and enrichments awards from international bird training organisations. It was also awarded the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for 3 years running and even peaked as the number 1 activity to do in Pokhara.
∞ IAATE Enrichment Behaviour Award
∞ IAATE Conservation Grant
∞ Winner Luxury Travel Guide
∞ Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence
∞ Coup Icare Best Film for "Flight For Survival"
∞ Coup Icare Best Film for "Parahawking"
A Sad End
Sadly after 16 amazing years in Nepal, our project came to a sudden and abrupt end. With no warning, the Nepal government decided to close down our project and confiscate our birds including our beloved Egyptian Vultures Kevin and Bob. They were placed in a makeshift "zoo" with no chance of exercise where they remain to this day. There is very little we can do for them which is heartbreaking so we decided to leave Nepal, our home for 16 years. Parahawking in Nepal was over.
Parahawking in Nepal may have come to an end however we believed that the project and our mission could live on in a new location so we decided to relaunch a new project in Spain. Parahawking in Spain will offer the same unique experience of flying and interacting with trained vultures and other birds of prey. Our mission remains the same, to educate and inform about the plight of vultures not just in Asia but the world over including Europe where the use of veterinary Diclofenac has been granted permission. Our aim is the same, to promote a connection with vultures and other birds of prey whilst providing a life changing experience.
We need your help
Developing a successful Parahawking Project takes time, dedication, a lot of patience and of course funds. Establishing a suitable location, building facilities and acquiring the birds that we'll eventually share the sky with are just some of the costs involved. Our new aviaries are taking shape and a fantastic new team of birds are currently in training. As you can see from the video below we're making progress but to get our project fully "off the ground" we need a little extra help.
We are now looking to raise funds to fully realise this new and exciting project and being able to carry on our important mission. Any funds raised via this campaign will go towards:
∞ Avairy building and maintenance
∞ Land rental for training the birds
∞ Bird equipment such as perches, travel boxes etc
∞ Business set up costs, permits, licences, legal fees
∞ Vehicle for transporting birds and paragliding gear
How to help
We are reaching out to anyone who has flown with us in Nepal, who has shared the sky with Kevin and Bob and and has been affected by their story or even became their Facebook friends, to anyone who has heard our story, seen us on TV such as the BBC Deadly 60 (see below) or liked an Instagram picture of one of our amazing flights.
Whilst we would gratefully accept any donation no matter how big or small, we are also offering some amazing rewards for your donation. There are other ways you can help also:
Become an official sponsor. The Parahawking Project receives an enormous amount of media exposure which could benefit your company or brand. We are currently looking for an action camera manufacturer to provide us with cameras.
You could sponsor one of our new birds or an aviary, go to:
Buy a Limited Edition print of Kevin and Bob by award winning artist Esther Tyson, go to:
Now for the hard part:
Needless to say it's been a tough few months since leaving Nepal in February 2017. I personally dedicated 16 years of my adult life to this project and promoting and funding vulture conservation projects only to have it all taken away by the very people I was trying to help. As a family with 2 young kids who only knew life in Nepal, went to school, had friends and family who they loved dearly, to lose everything that they knew and the birds that they grew up with has been heart wrenchingly sad.
We left Nepal with nothing but our bags and our memories but loaded with motivation and the desire to continue with this project no matter what. The support we have received has been overwhelming since arriving in Spain, especially from the local paragliding community here, most notably Fly Spain Paragliding - www.flyspain.co.uk without whom we would not be here, but also from the many thousands that have been following our little project down the years.
To be able to continue and relaunch this year in all it's glory is a massive undertaking and one which I am not taking lightly. I have set myself a huge challenge but I am determined to continue with our education message about endagered vultures through this unique connection of sharing the sky with them. I also cannot abandon the Gachowk Vulture Restaurant in Nepal, a conservation project that we helped create and one that is still vital to the conservation of Nepal's vultures. I will be eternally grateful to anyone who can help me achieve it.
You can follow our progress on my video blog:
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram:
Read our Trip Advisor reviews:
Read some about the projects we have supported: