Tackling the threat of electrocution in the Eastern Rhodopes to protect vultures

(c) Atanas Delchev/BSPB
(c) Atanas Delchev/BSPB

This summer, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) and Elektrorazpredelenie Yug EAD continued the provision of bird-related electrical poles in the Eastern Rhodopes. This important work is expected to continue until the end of the year, resulting in a total of 170 pillars and 150 diverters installed!

 

This vital conservation activity began in July with the isolation of the first pillars along the Krumovitsa River, Eastern Rhodopes and will continue for the next few months. The materials were purchased and delivered to the company as part of the conservation of Cinereous Vultures and Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes with the LIFE RE-Vultures project.

 

Threat of electrocution

Unsecured pillars are just one of the many threats that vultures and other birds in the Eastern Rhodopes face daily. Unfortunately, vultures and other birds are not always able to see the wires in front of them, which causes collisions. When flying or landing on dangerous pillars, birds often touch the wires and die as a result of an electric shock. s a As a result of electrocution or collision, a large number of birds die every year. These incidents have adverse effects on the populations of protected bird species, including the vultures, so it is important to reduce and eliminate any potential threats.

 

The sites and pillars that will be isolated within the LIFE Re-Vultures project have been identified as a result of years of field work and made after mapping of transmission lines in areas inhabited by vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes. This activity complements and builds on the identification and isolation of the riskiest power lines in the region, which were carried out within the framework of the Return of the Neophron project. In addition, bird deaths were taken into account, including dozens of birds of prey, including two Griffon Vulture deaths caused by power line collisions. The protection of birds at risk for power lines also contributes to the improvement of the services provided by the electricity distribution companies and reduces their costs for the elimination of accidents resulting from the bird incidents.

 

Insulators are placed on conductors to prevent the bird from touching the conductor while landing or taking off and thus reducing the risk of an electric shock. The length of the isolators is adapted to the size of large birds of prey, such as vultures. In addition to insulating equipment, other diverter equipment is also installed to provide better security for the posts. These are sun-reflective plates that hang along the wires. They make rotating movements and reflect light, thus signalling to the birds that there is an obstacle in front of them, which helps them avoid it. 

 

LIFE Re-Vultures

Starting in 2016, the five-year LIFE RE-Vultures project was developed by Rewilding Europe, in collaboration with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of BirdsWWF Greece, the Hellenic Ornithological Society and us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation. The aim of the project is to support the recovery and further expansion of the populations of Cinereous and Griffon Vultures in the cross-border region of the Rhodope Mountain by improving natural prey availability, monitoring movements of birds to help understand the threats they face and carrying out activities that will reduce the mortality of the populations from threats such as illegal wildlife poisoning and collisions with electricity infrastructure.

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