For more than a decade our Bulgarian colleagues have been dreaming about restoring vulture populations in the Balkans – indeed the first feasibility studies for the reintroduction of griffons in the Central Balkan mountains, where they had disappeared many decades ago, was done 10 years ago
Eventually that developed into a fully-fledged project funded by the EU LIFE fund (Vultures Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project), led by the Bulgarian NGO Green Balkans, with the Bulgarian Society for Birds of Prey (BPPS), and the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF-Bulgaria), with support from the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and the Bulgarian Ministry for Environment and Waters, and co-funds from Frankfurt Zoological Society FZS, and the German Federal Environmental Foundation DBU. This project aimed to restore the population of this species in the Bulgarian Balkan range, linking this population with colonies in Serbia, Croatia and southern Bulgaria/Greece, while at the same time reducing the threat of poisoning, provisioning of food through supplementary feeding sites, and monitoring.
During the last 6 years more than 200 griffon vultures, mostly from Spain were released (many transported by the VCF). The first breeding attempt was seen last year, and this year at least 5 pairs built nests, a promising sign since most of the 200 griffons released were juveniles, and they only start to when they reach four years. Finally one of them produced a young.
This young vulture – he first to be born in the wild in the Balkan mountains for many decades (see here), has now been baptized as Michel, to celebrate the life of Michel Terrasse. A pharmacist by training, Michel Terrasse developed an early interest in protecting birds. Born in 1938, he has devoted most of his life to the conservation of vultures, which had mostly disappeared from the French mountains. As a result of the relentless work of Michel and other vulture experts, today there are healthy populations of not only Griffon, but also Black and Bearded Vultures across France. Michel has been one of the mentors of the Vulture Conservation Foundation, was a past president and he is still in the VCF advisory board.
Michel and his colleagues – Dr. Hans Frey, Wolfgang Fremuth, Juan Sanchez-Artes, Raphael Neouze, Richard Zink, Ewelyn Tewes, Dr. Alex Llopis, Alvaro Camina, among others, many of them associated with the VCF, have been supporting the project in Bulgaria since the beginning, and have visited the sites to assess the conditions and help build the capacity to implement vulture reintroduction programmes in the country.
Hope Michel will fly above Bulgaria for years to come!