Three interesting papers have been published recently on bearded vultures. Data from a long-term study by Sonja Krueger et al. in southern Africa indicates that the isolated Bearded Vulture Population there (from the African subspecies, Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis) shows worrying trends. The number of occupied breeding territories decreased by a minimum of 32% and a maximum of 51% over the past five decades, with several territories abandoned, mostly in the periphery. The breeding range decreased by 27%, and breeding densities also decreased by 20%, decliningfrom 4.9 to 3.9 pairs/1,000 km 2 .The current population is estimated at 352- 390 individuals, estimated area of occupancy of 28,125 km 2
In Nepal, Raju Acharya et assessed the status of the Bearded Vulture between 2002 and 2008 in the Upper Mustang, observing a rapid decline of the species, with the number of individuals recorded per day and per kilometre falling by 73% and 80%, respectively.
The authors conclude that the use of the veterinary drug diclofenac could lie behind this decline, as the species range in the Himalayas overlap with the distribution of other vulture species there known to be affected by diclofenac. Incredibly, this veterinary drug has now been approved for veterinary use in Spain and Italy, thus potentially endangering this species in Europe – seemingly the only place in the world where it is now increasing. See http://www.4vultures.org/our-work/campaigning-to-ban-diclofenac-in-europe/ for details on the VCF campaign to ban this drug.
Another corollary of these two studies is that If these declines now reported for Nepal and Southern Africa are observed elsewhere, then the global conservation status of this species should be reassessed.
Finally, a short communication was also published by Lopez-Lopez et al, with more data on the period of post-fledgling dependence, and the onset of natal dispersal, in bearded vultures tagged with GPS devices, in the Pyrenees, or released in the Cantabrian Mountains after artificial incubation and hacking.
You can download all the papers below.