The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) has been uplisted today in the latest annual update on the IUCN annual bird red data list. This reflects on-going and serious declines in parts of its range, namely in southern Africa (where the species has declined by 30-50% over the past five decades –see link below), and In Nepal,where the number of individuals recorded per day and per kilometre falling by 70-80% between 2002 and 2008 – see below.
In Europe the species has suffered an historical contraction of its range and populations, and went extinct in many places – most recently in the Balkans in the 2000s , but in the last few years it has been mostly increasing in the few places where it remained – the population in the Pyrenees reaches now 165 pairs (up from 113 in 2000), in Crete it has slowly increased to 8 pairs (up from 4 in 2000), while the species has been re-established in the Alps, in a reintroduction project led by the VCF – one of the most spectacular wildlife comeback successes in recent decades: after going extinct there in 1913, a reintroduction project started in 1986, and there are now 30 pairs back in the Alps. The VCF is leading other reintroduction projects in the Grands Causses (France) and in Andalusia. The Corsican populations is the only one in serious decline in Europe, now numbering only 14 individuals and 5 breeding pairs (down from 9 in 2000) – the VCF and the Parc Régional Naturel de Corse have recently drawn up an emergency action plan to arrest this decline, and from next year the VCF will be providing two young from our captive breeding network to reinforce the population there.
Outside Europe the picture is less clear, but more worrying. As the Southern Africa and Nepal studies suggest, the species is mostly declining in its vast range due to poisoning, electrocution, and habitat changes leading to lack of food resources. You can find details on the latest evidence on the species decline here
The VCF will continue to work to restore the species range and populations in Europe – our ultimate aim is to restore it in its former distribution range, from north-western Africa and western Iberia to the Balkans, through the Pyrenees and the Alps. The species is now back to the Alps, and the on-going reintroduction in the Grands Causses will help link this population with the Pyrenean one. Andalusia will serve as a bridge between the Pyrenees and the highly endangered population left in Morocco, while all efforts will be made to save the isolated Corsican population – all part of a comprehensive conservation programme focussed on this extraordinary species – also the VCF´s flagship and one of our main priorities.