German police vulture scheme fails to take off: Police in Lower Saxony, Germany, who decided to teach a vulture to sniff out corpses of missing people, have hit difficulties two months into training. Reasoning that it could fly over miles of wasteland, then descend where it found a missing person, they had wanted to fit it with a transmitter. But it transpires that Sherlock, as the bird is known, is not very interested. On top of that, it is shy, confuses human with animal remains and actually prefers to walk, Spiegel magazine says.
Sherlock has been in training in the Walsrode bird park on Lueneburg Heath near Hanover, along with two vulture side-kicks also named after famous fictional detectives, Columbo and Miss Marple. It had seemed such a great idea. What if the police had sniffer dogs that could fly? Dogs do not have wings, they realised, but birds do. But according to Spiegel: "Sherlock's success has been limited.
While he can locate a stinking burial shroud, which the police gave the bird park to use for training purposes and which is clearly marked with a yellow plastic cup, Sherlock doesn't approach the shroud by air. He prefers to travel by foot.
Furthermore, the bird is yet to perform outside the familiar confines of the zoo. "The bird is naturally anxious, and he would hide in the woods or bolt," according to his trainer. The vulture also finds it hard to distinguish between dead people and dead animals, which is a problem in the vast heathland of that part of Germany...