It is often believed that the persecution that saw many populations of vultures decline were a thing of the past but a recent killing of a Griffon Vulture in Montenegro demonstrates that this is still a real issue.
Well-known to bird conservationists in the western Balkans, Griffon Vulture Perun was ringed and fitted with a GPS transmitter back in September on the Croatian island of Cres. After the release from the Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures „Beli“, the bird spent some time foraging throughout the Kvarner islands of Cres, Lošinj, Krk, Plavnik, Prvic, Sveti Grgur and Rab, often visiting the well-known cliffs which these birds use for nesting.
Wandering around the Balkans
In the company of another Griffon Vulture, Jadran, Perun traveled southward across the island of Pag, continuing along the Dalmatian coast. On its way south, Perun made a stop at the end of October in the Ulcinj Salina in Montenegro, a site well known for the ongoing legal battle regarding its status and future – this important biodiversity area is threatened by tourism development – and also rather infamous for the illegal hunting of birds.
Then, at the end of October, the signals from Perun´s GPS transmitter fell silent.
Our colleagues from Association BIOM/BirdLife Croatia, one of our partners on our Balkan Anti-Poisoning Project informed colleagues from the Center for Protection and Research of Birds /BirdLife Montenegro to investigate the location of the Griffon Vulture.
The young bird was exhausted and was given food to help him recuperate and gain strength for further travels. Unfortunately, in the next field search, the bird was not seen anymore, and the GPS transmitter had also stopped sending data.
The discovery of vulture feathers and gun cartridges indicate that Perun fell victim to poachers. Vultures are unfortunately still a favorite trophy for hunters in the Balkans and Perun’s illegal killing is not the first case on a Griffon vulture being killed in Montenegro. In 2017, our Montenegrin colleagues released one bird with a transmitter. After the release, this vulture survived less than 24 hours in the wild before being shot down.
The wing of Perun and x-ray showing fragments of embedded bullets. found alongside a shot Dalmatan Pelican (C) Center for Protection and Research of Birds /BirdLife Montenegro
On Friday 14 December our colleagues at Center for Protection and Research of Birds /BirdLife Montenegro reported the discovered a wing from a Griffon Vulture alongside the remains of a Dalmatian Pelican. Without doubt we can say that this is Perun's remains and x-rays confirmed the suspicions that he was in fact shot as the wing was full of bullet fragments. A tragic end to this young Griffon Vulture's life.
This latest event shows that apart from poisoning, which represents the biggest threat for vulture populations not just in the Balkans but worldwide, illegal bird killing is still very much a real and current threat for vultures in the region.
We are working actively with Center for Protection and Research of Birds /BirdLife Montenegro and BIOM/BirdLife Croatia alongside other Balkan partners are working with Euronatur, BirdLife International to try to minimize illegal killing of birds throughout the region. One large-scale project funded by the MAVA foundation is now underway, with actions in many countries, including communications campaigns, increased enforcement on particular black spots, training of enforcement agencies, and lobbying for strengthening environmental protection legislation and regulations.
We ask the Montenegrin authorities to investigate this latest case, and to dedicate the necessary resources to fight this problem.