So far this year 14 bearded vultures have been released across Europe in the three reintroduction (Andalusia, Massif Central and Alps) and one restocking (Corsica) projects – tomorrow two more will be released in the Hohe Tauern National Park, as part of the bearded vulture Alpine reintroduction project.
The birds will be presented to the public in a ceremony tomorrow morning in Untersulzbachtal, and will then be taken to the platform high up in the mountains, where they will stay until they fledge naturally.
Releases in Austria (on the eastern end of the Alpine arch) started in 1986 (exactly 30 years ago!) and so far 61 birds have been released in the country in 28 releases (only in 1195, 1997 and 2013 there were no releases). The first release in Austria happened on the 25th of May 1986, when three nestlings were released in Krumltal (N.P. Hohe Tauern). A fourth was released two months later.
The species first attempted to breed in Austria in 2000-2001 at Heiligenblut, but this pair disappeared soon after. In 2001-2002 a pair started their breeding attempts at Gastein/Rauris, and was eventually successful in 2009-2010, with a second pair appearing in Katschberg the same year. A third pair was established two years ago also in the Hohe Tauern National Park.
On the margins of the main nucleus of the species, the recolonization of the Austrian Alps has been slower and less successful than on other alpine region – there are now 40 occupied territories across the Alps, with a yearly production of around 20 chicks year. Nevertheless, the establishment of a reproductive nucleus on the eastern Alps is crucial for the long term restoring of the distribution range of the species in Europe, as the area is the gateway to the Balkan mountains.
The birds to be released tomorrow come from Tierpark Friedrichsfelde Berlin. The younger nestling is a female, “Charlie”. The egg was removed from the captive pair´s nest 1-2 days before his brother hatched in the nest. The brother, named “Lucky”, was reared by his parents, but Charlie hatched in an incubator and was then transferred to the Richard Faust Centre (specialized captive breeding unit in Haringsee, Austria) where it was adopted.
The parents of Charlie and lucky are from 1998 and reproduce for the first time and with success in 2006. Between 2006-2016 they produced 21 eggs, from which 15 hatched and 11 survived. Two of the hatched nestlings where killed when trying an adoption at the foster pair in Berlin zoo – so this year the second chick was sent to Richard Faust Centre for adoption.