Last week two young Egyptian vultures bred in captivity were released in Southern Italy as part of an experiment to test procedures and get crucial data on the feasibility and relevance of captive-breeding and restocking/reintroduction projects with this species.
The two chicks, both female, named Sara and Agata, had been placed in a hacking site in Puglia region, only a few km away from the border of Basilicata region. They're the first two of a total of six chicks to be released this Summer.
Sara had hatched at CERM (Endangered Raptors Centre Association) Egyptian vulture captive breeding unit on the 18th of May while Agata hatched on the 27th of May at the Zoo Zlin, in Czech Republic. Agata and two more young Egyptian vultures born at Prague Zoo had been brought to CERM by the coordinator of the Egyptian vulture EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) Anton Vaidl, curator of birds at Prague Zoo and also a member of the VCF scientific advisory board.
Some days later Sara and Agata were moved to Puglia, and placed into a hacking cavity, located in a spectacular rocky canyon, which had been prepared by local ornithologists Filippo Bellini, Vittorio Giacoia, Tonio Sigismondi and Giovanni Zaccaria. After four days the net that closed the cavity was removed and both the Egyptian vultures fledged.
The two fledglings were fitted with satellite transmitters, purchased by the VCF, that allow for the tracking of their long distance movements. Agata left the hacking site on the 21st of August and moved swiftly towards the south, with a first stop in Calabria, 90 km far from the hacking site (see map). Sara left the hacking site two days later and moved southeast, towards Lecce (see map).
This experimental release is led by CERM (on behalf of the Italian Ministry of the Environment), in collaboration with the Vulture Conservation Foundation and the Egyptian vulture EEP. The release also had the cooperation of Puglia Region, the Parco Naturale Terra delle Gravine and LIPU/BIRDLIFE.
CERM has been breeding this species in captivity in a specialized captive breeding station in Southern Tuscany, and since 2004 has released 12 birds in southern Italy, where the few remaining Egyptian vultures in Italy occur.
Soon 4 more birds will be released from a site in Calabria region.
(All photos CERM-VCF)