Extremadura holds significant populations of vultures in Spain and Europe – for example, about half of all black vultures nesting in Europe are there. The VCF has been collaborating in many vulture conservation initiatives there, or with stakeholders from the region, so we have been recently to Extremadura to meet our partners there to discuss ongoing projects and initiatives, plan future work and exchange on vulture conservation issues and priorities.
We have visited the wildlife rehabilitation center of Los Hornos, managed by the Junta de Extremadura, as well as the similar centre managed by regional NGO AMUS, with whom we collaborate (see photos). We have also met with managers and staff in the regional agency for the protection of the environment and nature conservation (Consejeria de Medio Ambiente y Rural, Politicas Agrarias y Territorio)
The Junta de Extremadura and AMUS are collaborating with the VCF in the Vultures Back to LIFE project, which aims to reintroduce the black vulture to Bulgaria and strengthen the population of griffon vulture in the country. Once widespread throughout the Balkans, the black vulture now breeds only in a single colony in the region, in Dadia (northeast Greece), where the population has been stable or slightly increasing (now totalling about 35 pairs) due to the valiant conservation efforts there implemented by WWF Greece.
In this project, we will reintroduce the species to the Central Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria, using black vultures found weakened or injured in Extremadura - with first releases planned for next year. Black and griffon vultures that enter the regional wildlife rehabilitation center in Los Hornos are then sent to the AMUS centre, which built a custom-made aviary to receive them with LIFE funding – here they undergo all the fitness and vet tests, and the necessary quarantine. They will then be transported to Bulgaria for release.
As part of this project, the Junta is also doing a comprehensive montoring of the breeding black vulture population in Extremadura – and because of that it is picking up weakened fledglings that otherwise would die. This year 6 young cinereous vultures were picked up in the region, and these will be transferred soon to AMUS, and then next year to Bulgaria.
The monitoring activities are focused in the two main colonies Monfragüe and Sierra de San Pedro, which represent about 90% of the black vulture population in Extremadura. From previous censuses the black vulture population in Extremadura is estimated at about 900 breeding pairs.
The Vultures Back to Life project is led by Bulgarian NGO Green Balkans, and have as project partners EuroNature, and the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF), apart from the Junta de Extremadura (Spain) and the VCF.
The VCF would like to thank Los Hornos, the Junta and AMUS for an excellent welcome and for all the great work being done for vultures.