In the last 18 months 14 zoos, animal parks and recovery centres located in 6 different European countries (Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Poland) have been visited by VCF staff following their request, to analyse and improve the husbandry conditions for captive bearded vultures included in the species EEP (captive breeding network coordinated by the VCF).
This new advisory service, by a VCF expert with many years of experience on bearded vulture captive breeding, includes the monitoring of the behaviour of the pair - especially observations on pair bonding and aviary use behaviour-, analysis of aviary conditions and recommendations for improvement, and an intense exchange of best practice with local staff in relation to vulture behaviour, aviary facilities, artificial incubation and rearing, etc.
The service also includes pre-planning and advisory to all those interested to build a new aviary, with in situ analysis and customised recommendations from the general guidelines for housing Bearded Vulture in captivity (see http://www.4vultures.org/our-work/captive-breeding/bearded-vulture/). This is relevant for new, coming partners to the EEP, so that aviaries are well built from scratch, avoiding many common past mistakes
In most of the zoos visited, several problems in the aviaries were detected. The most common were inappropriate perches, too small roofs in the nesting cave, inappropriate nest structure, lack of a second cave to provide the subordinate bird with a place to shelter in bad weather, and lack of steps climbing up to the nest.
After each visit a customised report is produced, with specific and detailed recommendations. Several of the zoos and rehabilitation centres that have been visited have already restructured (Córdoba and Moscow Zoos, Parco Natura Viva and Green Balkans center) or built brand new aviaries (e.g. Parc Animalier des Pyrénées) – see photos. You can see some of the reports produced so far at http://www.4vultures.org/our-work/captive-breeding/bearded-vulture/
This advisory service is free of charge, with the zoo only having to cover the travel costs.