The VCF has recently organised its annual meeting of the VCF advisory (scientific) and management boards in Stara Zagora (Bulgaria), and took the opportunity to visit the Central Balkan mountain range where one of the LIFE projects where the VCF is involved is taking place.
During the meeting – that gathered 16 board members and staff, all the VCF activities and projects were reviewed, and emerging and/or priority vulture conservation issues thoroughly analysed. Among the substantive discussions, the protocols for the reintroduction of black vultures in the Balkans were debated – this is indeed one of the main actions of the LIFE Vultures Back to LIFE project now under implementation there -, as well as the options and merits of Egyptian vulture captive-breeding and releases back to the wild.
During the stay in Bulgaria the VCF team has also visited the excellent wildlife rehabilitation centre and captive breeding unit managed by Green Balkans – the beneficiary of the above-mentioned LIFE project. There we had opportunity to see the vultures breeding aviaries – including the bearded vulture one, that this year saw the hatching of two chicks, the first ever in the centre.
The VCF group also visited the Kotel area in the Eastern Balkans Mountains, one of the sites where black vultures will be reintroduced.
We were lucky enough to see there a griffon vulture with its small chick, the first time a wild griffon pair breeds in nature there for more than 40 years, following the successful reintroduction of the griffon vulture to the Central Balkan Mountain range in a project finished last year, and in which the VCF also contributed. Emilian Stoynov, from the Fund for Wild Fauna & Flora, which manages the site and is also a partner in the new LIFE project, explained the work done so far and the plans for the future. The hatching in Kotel has happened exactly ten years after the start of the efforts for reintroducing the Griffon Vulture in the area. The species had disappeared from Kotel Mountain in the early 1970s.
Following first breeding attempts in 2012, and the first confirmed successful breeding last year in Vrachanski Balkan (in the western part of the range), this year at least 15 pairs started breeding across the central mountain range (including 6 eggs laid in Kotel), with eight pairs still breeding at the moment in at least 3 sites – a huge success, and evidence that the reintroduction project was successful.
The VCF would like to thank the Green Balkans and the FWFF teams for hosting us - keep up the good work!