After several years without any mortality due to poisoning, the silent killer strikes again in Andalucía – Zafra, a bearded vulture released in the reintroduction Project there in 2012 (see photo of her first flight), was found dead in the Sierra de Magina (see photo, and below a short video).
Zafra is the seventh bearded vulture found poisoned out of a total of 12 that died, from the 40 released so far in the reintroduction Project in the sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas (Jaén). The last poisoning of a bearded vulture had happened in 2011, when the programme was temporarily suspended, and when the Junta de Andalucia doubled its anti-poisoning campaign.
Recently a court in the region has given a 18 month suspended sentence to a local person who had poisoned a berded vulture in 2008, while another person found guilty of poisoning two individuals of this species in 2001 was given a 6 month sentence and condemned to pay a 6,000€ fine.
The VCF has been in contact with the Junta de Andalucia and the Fundación Gypaetus throughout – who coordinate the reintroduction project locally, and we have already written to the regional ministry of environment asking for the authorities to step its fight against poisoning. All feedback received so far indicates that the authorities are taking this case very seriously and will continue their efforts to eradicate poisoning from the area, so we are, for the time being, continuing with the reintroduction project, which has been very successful – last year a pair bred in the wild for the first time, and this year at least 3 pairs were nest building.
In fact today two more bearded vulture nestlings from the captive breeding network (coordinated by the VCF) will be released in Castril Natural Park, the second release this year in the framework of the Reintroduction project there.
One of the birds is a female coming from Vallcalent bearded vulture specialized breeding center (co-managed by the VCF and the Generalitat of Catalonia) - the hatchling of the first egg from the older breeding pair there. The female from this pair always buries the first egg under the wool when laying the second egg, so in the past the first egg was always removed immediately after being laid and adopted by the imprinted male Gualay. Unfortunately Gualay died last summer because of an aspergillosis infection and so this year the egg had to be incubated artificially, following the protocol designed by the VCF staff (receiving four times a day a thermal shock). The chick hatched without problems after 52 days incubation, and was then reared by the foster imprinted male Kazajo. Unfortunately as soon as the feathers started to grown on the nestlings Kazajo stopped feeding it, so it was necessary to prepare and offer once a day food in the nest.
The other nestling is a male coming from Richard Faust Breeding Centre (Austria, co-managed by the VCF). It is a descendant from the oldest pair in this center and the best breeding pair inside the captive breeding network. This pair bred for the first time in 1989 and has produced so far 37 hatchlings, of which 34 chicks survived - 28 of them have been released in the reintroduction projects.
Photo: Junta de Andalucia/Paco Montoro Garcia