In the runup to the final Andalusian bearded vulture release, on Friday 25 May, one of the two chicks set for release has started its 3,000 km journey from the Balkans to Spain.
Following the two releases on Monday 14 and Tuesday 22 May, the next release in Castril will see two bearded vulture chicks put in a platform in the wild, ready for fledgling into the Andalusian skies. One of the chicks has been raised at the Guadalentin bearded vulture specialized captive-breeding centre in Andalusia, managed by the Junta de Andalusia and the Fondacioan Gypateus, whilst the second is being transported by air to the release site from the captive breeding centre managed by Green Balkans, in Bulgaria.
We work with zoos and captive breeding centres to ensure the correct sex and genetic mix of the bearded vultures we release in reintroduced populations. This work involves moving birds - including chicks ready for release across borders. Although obviously involving some stress, if properly put in adequate transport boxes vultures can undergo such trips without major problems.
Both these birds will be tagged with a GPS transmitter, and the VCF in collaboration with local partners will monitor and follow their progress closely.
The bearded vulture reintroduction programme in Andalusia (Sierras de Cazorla, Segura, Castril and Las Villas), led by the Junta de Andalucia, in collaboration with Fondación Gypaetus and the VCF, started back in 1996, with the first birds being released in 2006 following their extinction in the area in the 1980's. Since 2006 52 birds have been released in the area, with the releases becoming a popular annual fixture in the diary for locals. The reintroduction programme in the area was boosted in 2015 when a pair began breeding, marking an important milestone for bearded vulture comeback. This year two pairs are successfully and raising a chick in the wild, while two other territorial pairs are well established and may begin breeding in the next few years.
The chicks released in Andalusia, and the others the VCF will be releasing this Spring across Europe, are originated in the captive breeding programme and network coordinated by the VCF under mandate from EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria).