Over three days at the beginning of November we brought together a range of partners from across Europe and beyond to discuss bearded vulture conservation. Here are some conclusions from the Annual Bearded Vulture Meeting 2018.
Bearded vulture conservation work continues to grow
The reintroduction of the bearded vulture to Europe is one of the most successful wildlife comeback stories ever and the work has grown from discrete, single-focus projects to a truly international, pan-European programme that is underpinned by research and monitoring. From the make-up of those attending the Annual Meeting it was clear that it has gathered momentum that has produced social, political, economic and conservation outputs.
Andalucia as an example of success
20 years ago the reintroduction of bearded vultures in Andalucia was a risky and ambitious political decision. Since then the work has served to dynamise the local economy, enhance local pride, and progress wider environmental and conservation objectives such as the world leading strategy on fighting illegal wildlife poisoning.
With four established pairs and two successful breeding pairs bearded vultures are formally re-established, 30 years after extinction, and is expected to grow, making the population an important bridge between the north African and the European population.
Conservation across Europe
The Alpine population continues to increase with 52 breeding pairs in 2018, but the number of fledglings decreased down from 31 in 2017 to 29 in 2018.
In 2018 13 birds were successfully released across five sites (two in Austria, two in Switzerland, three in the French pre-Alps and six in Spain, four in Andalucia and two in Maestrazgo) with no mortalities reported.
The newest reintroduction project in the Maestrazgo region of Spain successfully engaged a wide range of stakeholders including politicians and the public, the project will experiment with the translocation of non-breeding ‘floating’ adults from the Pyrenees to help restock the population.
In 2019 we will continue to invest in the LIFE GYPCONNECT and Andalucia projects and in the Alps birds will be released that are of rare genetic lingeages.
Work is continuing across Europe to tackle the threats faced by bearded vultures, such as electrocution, collision with electricity infrastructure and importantly illegal poisoning. This year a young bearded vulture was killed in France’s Grand Causess, the Andalucian strategy against poisoning is a model that should be adopted elsewhere.
Other threats such as windfarms and lead poisoning are also emerging as important to conserving the species with research presented to support this claim.
Bearded vulture research
The Annual Meeting brought together lots of ideas from the research and monitoring of the species. Importantly for the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network it was concluded that there was an urgent need to mark wildborn birds to help improve the demographic models of the population. There is also a need to improve data management of bearded vulture mortality to detect and identify causes.
It was concluded that when comparing egg extraction and captive breeding, that even though captive breeding was more intensive it was still the best method as there are still uncertainties regarding impact on source population of egg extraction.
The Bearded Vulture EEP Captive Breeding Network of 37 zoos, specialised breeding centres and private collections presented the developments for the coming year, including the results of the Bearded Vultures on the Move crowdfunding campaign to move birds across the network to keep them safe from disease and improve the breeding success.
There were also exciting developments in veterinary care to improve the welfare of the population of the captive breeding network, which we are reporting over the next couple of week such as the case of Mia and Rin Ran.
2018 was a successful breeding season with 24 fledglings, however, there was significant mortality of young hatchings and high number of unhatched fertile eggs. This year some birds kept for EEP needs in an attempt to address the sex imbalance in favour to females.