In the run up to the last bearded vulture release of the 2018 release season in Switzerland on Sunday 17 June we thought we would look back on the efforts of the captive breeding programme over 2017 with the publication of its annual report.
The Bearded Vulture European Endangered Species Programme
Since 1978 we have been part of the coordinated effort to reintroduce the bearded vultures across its former range in Europe. To achieve this aim we established a captive breeding network of zoos, animal parks, captive breeding centres and private collections to breed the species for conservation purposes which we coordinate under the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (EAZA) European Endangered Species Programme (EEP).
This network of includes 38 zoos, three large and two smaller specialised breeding centres and three private keepers totally 167 birds, 134 of which are owned by the Vulture Conservation Foundation.
Within the network the zoos house already established pairs and focus on breeding offspring whilst the specialised breeding centres are staffed with specialists who are responsible for establishing new pairs, taking in new founders (injured birds from the wild), adopting chicks and housing problematic birds.
As part of the EEP breeding strategy we produce a studbook containing demographic and genetic information in the network to ensure the best breeding results and maintain a genetic diversity of the population.
The ultimate aim of the bearded vulture EEP captive breeding network is to release young birds into the wild through reintroduction projects.
2017 was another bumper year for breeding with a total of 25 bearded vulture chicks fledging. Over the breeding season 39 bearded vulture pairs laid 67 eggs with 25 juveniles hatching and surviving. Of the chicks we released 18 youngsters in our four reintroduction programmes and seven were added back to the breeding network.
Three new pairs (from Tierpark Berlin, Czech Republic’s Liberec Zoo and Helsinki Zoo) started to reproduce and a founder male from Richard Faust Breeding Centre, the headquarters of the EEP breeding network, successfully reproduced for the first time. At Helsinki Zoo a female started to lay for the first time although the male was only three years old.
Breeding can be full of complications for bearded vultures with eggs occasionally becoming obstructed, for the first time at Italy’s Parco Natura Viva an obstructed eggs was removed surgically , ensuring the survival of the female and the egg.
Breeding pair management
As part of the management of the birds within the breeding network, five new birds were added, two of which were wild birds from the Pyrenees. One of birds, a young male Flamadel was recovered after appearing injured, it was later discovered that he had suffered a fractured tibia and was transferred to the Catalonian Vallcalent Recovery Centre to recuperate. Joining this juvenile at the recovery centre was another Pyrenean bird, an adult male who was suffering a leg injury and was malnourished. Surgery was performed on this male to repair the injury and he made a full recovery. Both these birds along with the other birds will add to the network and is hoped will breed in the coming years.
Unfortunately, there were six deaths during 2017. One of those was the female Kirma, who we reported on back in 2015 who suffered a mandible injury but was nursed back to health and later successfully bred producing three chicks. Every effort was made to save Kirma but she sadly died due to air sac infection.
Renovations to aviaries
As our ongoing efforts to improve the facilities within the breeding network this year the aviary at Italy’s Oasi di Sant’ Alessio and the Asters Breeding Centre in France was completely rebuilt helping to provide a great environment for the breeding birds.
Download the full Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network EEP 2017 report.