This year the VCF and its partners will release at least 13 young bearded vultures into the wild in Europe – a boost to the populations of this species in our continent, that have been benefiting from the work of the VCF – the species is now fully restored and is growing exponentially in the Alps and started to breed again in Andalusia after an absence of 30+ years.
The VCF coordinates the bearded vulture captive breeding network, under a mandate from EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria). Results of this year´s breeding season were somehow lower than expected – a total of 33 young were produced, but 8 chicks died – an unusually high number. We do have to keep in captivity a number of the young, to address sex-ratio imbalances and also to secure some blood lines in the captive stock – the first 4 chicks of new founder couples are always kept in captivity, so in the end only 13 young – maybe one or two more depending on the sex, will be released in the on-going reintroduction projects (Alps, Andalusia and Maestrazgo). Unfortunately, this year we had to cancel planned releases in the Grands Causses and in Corsica (restocking) due to the shortage of birds.
The release season will start already this weekend – on the 6th May three birds will be released in Baronnies, (westernmost French pre-Alps), as part of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project (funded by the EU LIFE budget and co-funded by the MAVA foundation), aiming to link the growing population in the Alps to the one being reintroduced in the Grands Causses and eventually to the one in the Pyrenees.
Then on the 17th or 23rd May Andalusia will release two birds too, followed later by other two – eventually more depending on the gender of the last hatched birds. In the Alps birds will be released in Switzerland (17th June, 2 birds) and Austria (8th June, 2 birds).
All birds will be tagged and monitored closely by the VCF and it local partners. To create a healthy wild population, it is necessary to release birds from different blood lines to avoid consanguinity. Consequently, nestlings are transferred through Europe, traveling thousands of kilometres.
The aim of all these projects is to create a bearded vulture European meta-population, with gene flow between the existing autochthonous populations in Europe (in the Pyrenees, Corsica, and Crete) with reintroduced populations and eventually with existing populations in North Africa and in Asia.
You are all invited to Baronnies
We are pleased to invite you to the third release of bearded vultures in the Baronnies massif, this Sunday (6th May) at 11:30. As in previous years, the birds will be presented to the public by their “godmother” and “godfather”, before being placed on the hacking cave (see photos from last year).
The site is the same as last year’s: Hameau de Léoux (town of Villeperdrix, 26510). Signposting and parking will be set up near the venue (allow 15-20 minutes of walking on a track to access the presentation site).
Vultures in Baronnies will offer an aperitif after the presentation of the birds, which will be followed by a picnic. On the same day there will be a "Festival of Vultures", in partnership with the Regional Natural Park of Baronnies Provençales and Villeperdrix Town Hall. There will be a treasure hunt, nature walks (registration required at the tourist office), exhibitions, and a conference (at 16:30 in Villeperdrix). Come to Baronnies this Sunday!