A program of research and conservation of Egyptian vultures has been developed in Oman (a global stronghold of the species) since 2012 by a partnership that includes the government, NGOs, private consultants and volunteers. That work has included surveys of breeding vultures on Masirah Island, surveys of rubbish dumps, satellite-tracking of individual birds, and a film. Results so far include finding that Masirah has the second most dense breeding population in the world (after Socotra), detailing the high level of vulture use of rubbish dumps in the sultanate (especially in the winter), data on movements of vultures in northern Oman (http://egyptianvultureoman.blogspot.co.at/), and developing a dialog amongst stakeholders as Oman improves its waste management system on a national scale.
In January 2015 we fitted transmitters to two young Egyptian vultures captured at the main municipal landfill for Muscat – the capital of the Sultanate. The signal from one of these birds was lost after a few months, and the second bird was electrocuted in December 2015 (see the blog for the whole story). In January 2016 we captured three more Egyptian vultures and fitted two of them with GPS-GSM transmitters. One of these was funded through a small grant from Los Angeles Zoo and one was provided by the manufacturer (http://www.aquila-it.pl/en/). From time to time we are posting updates of the tracking on the blog (http://egyptianvultureoman.blogspot.co.at/)
In November 2015 E. Gombala (an independent film maker), A. Obracajova (Ostrava Zoo), the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), International Avian Research (IAR), and the Environment Society of Oman (ESO) worked with the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Affairs, and Be’ah (the company upgrading Oman’s waste management system) to develop a film that will serve to educate people about vultures and more generally about the problem of waste management. The film is in the editing stage and should be out soon.
All this work has been largely sustained by in-kind support: ESO provided transport, IAR, Ostrava Zoo and E. Gombala provided in-kind labour and funding of a transmitter, VCF provided support for the film making, Aquila provided a transmitter and Arid Lands provided accommodation. While such wide support is satisfying and encouraging, Oman’s position as a global stronghold for Egyptian vultures (both resident and migratory), and a number of other migratory and resident soaring bird species of conservation concern (e.g. Eastern imperial eagle, Steppe eagle, Lappet-faced vulture, Greater spotted eagle) means that a more consistent and sustained effort needs to be put in in order to tackle the challenges ahead. We are currently searching for ways to fund future work in Oman. You can keep up with progress by following our blog (http://egyptianvultureoman.blogspot.co.at/), or the VCF webpage. When the film is finished we will let you know
Photos: W Al Fazari & Mike McGrady