On May 29, a weakened adult Egyptian vulture was picked up by an inhabitant of Poiares, near the Douro canyon. The person immediately alerted ATN, our local partners within the LIFE RUPIS project, and the bird was promptly transported to CERVAS, a wildlife rehabilitation center in Gouveia, where the bird was then adequately taken care of. The following day the bird ate well, and within a few days it was already flying strongly in their flight tunnels. In the meantime, the police´s anti-poisoning dog unit, created within the framework of LIFE RUPIS to detect poison baits in the area, was dispatched to the scene – fortunately they did not find any evidence of poisoning this time.
The bird, an adult female, may be breeding in the Douro canyon – even though the RUPIS project staff have established that the bird does not come from the breeding pair closest to Poiares, where the bird was found. So it was of paramount importance that the bird could be released as soon as possible. Blood samples were collected and sent swiftly to IREC, a Spanish specialized lab, who have confirmed the bird did not suffer from lead poisoning or any other immediate acute disorder – so 5 days after being collected, the bird could be returned to the wild yesterday.
With the help of local ornithologist José Jambas, the bird was tagged with one of the LIFE RUPIS GPS tags, which will provide the project with valuable information about the movements of this individual.
The bird was named Poiares, after the village where it was found, and finally released yesterday, by a small crowd of people including the Mayor of Freixo de Espada à Cinta, the local administrator of Poiares, some school children and Dona Isabel, the lady who first found it and caught the adult Egyptian vulture.
Poiares is the second Egyptian vulture marked within the framework of LIFE RUPIS – the first bird, called RUPIS, a 4th year captured and tagged last year, is not breeding and is roaming the area widely. The VCF will continue to try to catch and tag more birds later this summer, as the use of space and foraging areas need to be identified to help these birds.
The LIFE RUPIS project aims to implement actions to strengthen the populations of the Egyptian vulture (and the bonelli´s eagle) at the trans-border Douro, by reducing the mortality of these birds and increasing their breeding success. The Egyptian vulture is the smallest vulture in Europe, and it is classified as "Endangered" – in Europe its populations have declined by 50% over the last 40 years.
The project includes equipping electric lines against electrocution, several actions that aim to minimize the threat of illegal poisoning, targeted management of over 1,000 hectares of important habitats for the species and also the creation of a network of supplementary feeding stations.
The project is implemented by the VCF and partners, including SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), ATN and Palombar (regional conservation organisations in NE Portugal), the Junta de Castilla y Leon & the Fundación Patrimonio Natural de Castilla Y León, the Portuguese electricity distributor EDP-D, the Portuguese statutory conservation agency ICNF and the Portuguese environmental police force (GNR).
Photos: VCF, CERVAS, SPEA