The bearded vulture captive breeding network (organised under an EEP program under EAZA – European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and managed by the VCF) is a fantastic and rather complex collaborative effort between many people and organisations - and is at the base of the successful reintroduction projects that are restoring the populations of this species across its former range (Alps, Grands Causses and Andalucia). As part of this coordination, the VCF provides technical support and targeted coordination to zoos, animal parks, and the specialized captive breeding centres holding bearded vultures, always trying to maximise the establishment of new pairs, improving the husbandry, reducing mortality, and improving breeding productivity.
Following the publication last year of the an updated document with guidelines for housing Bearded vultures in captivity, the VCF has now just published new guidelines for feeding this species in captivity (see below)
As the coordinator of the network, we constantly strive to improve the welfare of this species and increase its survival rate in captivity. Over the last year, almost 1/3 of the zoos in the network built a new aviary or rebuilt their old aviary, following the husbandry guidelines. Also, in 2015 we lost only 4 birds, and those had an average age of 35.8 years, substantially higher than the average year of death in captivity (1978-2015): 26.9 years in specialized captive breeding centers and 16.6 years in zoos.
The diet can also influences the welfare of this species in captivity, so this document will hopefully help improving survival and breeding productivity. In this document, the food requirements are described in detail, and prescriptions for food quality and quantity detailed.
Everybody knows that bearded vultures feed on bones (up to 70% of the diet), but few people know that nestlings, especially during their first 4 weeks, need to eat exclusively soft tissue. Also, when they are about 35 days old, and all the way up to fledging, young need to eat double the quantity of food than fully-grown birds!
Apart from the diet, feeding routines and the way how food is offered can influence the welfare of the birds.