Bearded Vulture returns to the French countryside after a year in recovery

The return of Bearded Vulture Elizabeth to the wild (c) Hegalaldia Rescue Centre
The return of Bearded Vulture Elizabeth to the wild (c) Hegalaldia Rescue Centre

Another Bearded Vulture was rescued and released back to the wild of France. Elizabeth is a female Bearded Vulture that is over 19 years old. She was discovered injured in 2018 and was nursed back to health by experts in the past year. They recently released her at the Port of Lhers in Ariège, the same area where they found her. 

 

Elizabeth's rescue and release

Elizabeth during her transfer to the release site (c) Hegalaldia Rescue Centre
Elizabeth during her transfer to the release site (c) Hegalaldia Rescue Centre

Elizabeth was discovered in distress in Regional Natural Park of the Ariège Pyrenees in December 2018 and rescued by the National Hunting and Wildlife Agency. Her identification ring had slipped and got stuck between her toes, causing necrosis of a toe. In addition to that, her blood tests revealed lead contamination, an often overlooked threat to vultures. The National Veterinary School of Toulouse (ENVT) promptly operated her and continued to look after her until her wounds healed. But she still needed post-operative care, so she was transferred to Hegalaldia Rescue Centre in February to be treated.

 

The perseverance of conservationists paid off as they nursed Elizabeth back to health, regaining healthy weight and movement of her toes, although two of her toes are no longer functioning. Elizabeth was ready to return to nature, so she was released on Thursday 29 May at the Regional Natural Park of the Ariège Pyrenees, the same area where they found her in 2018. Elizabeth easily and quickly took flight while an enthusiastic crowd was watching her. She may no longer be wearing a ring, but it will be easy to recognise and follow her journey as two of her feathers were discoloured.

 

Watch the video of her release

Elizabeth's long history

We are happy to say that Elizabeth's known history is long, amounting to 15 years. When she was already an adult, she was captured and equipped with a transmitter and a ring in Aragon, Spain for research purposes. She needed help for the first time in 2012, so she was rescued and transferred to the Catalan Rehabilitation Center in Valcallent (Provincia de Lleida), where she was re-equipped and released in 2015.  At the end of 2015, they observed  Elizabeth with another adult Bearded Vulture in the Mont Valier State Reserve in Ariège.

 

Another released bird but still a vulnerable species

 

Bearded Vulture (c) Bruno Berthemy
Bearded Vulture (c) Bruno Berthemy

Bearded vultures are an emblematic species of the Pyrenees. But even though another Bearded Vulture was saved, the species remain fragile, and constant conservation efforts are implemented to secure their future. The Ariege now hosts nine pairs of Bearded Vultures of the 43 identified on the northern slope of the Pyrenees. This outcome is thanks to the exemplary collaboration among veterinarians, health centres, NGOs as well as the "Casseur d' os" network (more than 350 observers / 20 organisations in the Pyrenees mountains), led by the LPO for more than 25 years, and around 3 programs successive conservation led by the Regional Directorate of the Environment.

 

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