On the 19th of December 2017, a group of 22 griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) started their travel from Extremadura (Spain) to Bulgaria for a reintroduction project in the Stara Planina Mountains.
The Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) organized another transport of 22 griffon vultures for the reintroduction project in Stara Planina mountains (Bulgaria), under the Vultures Back to Life project. All birds were born in the wild in Spain during this year´s breeding season, but were found in Extremadura suffering malnutrition and weakness, and taken to wildlife rehabilitation centers. After a short period of recovery in the wildlife rehabilitation centers of AMUS (Acción por el Mundo Salvaje) and Los Hornos (Junta de Extremadura), these birds will now be released in the reintroduction project in the Balkans.
The vultures are being transported by the Bulgarian NGO “Green Balkans” by land, passing through France, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Romania~, before arriving in Bulgaria. This journey will take around 50 hours, covering over 4000 km! After the arrival in Bulgaria and a quarantine period at the Green Balkans Wildlife Center in Stara Zagora, the vultures will be distributed among the three release acclimatization aviaries in Vratsa, Sliven and Kotel. Here the birds have time to get used to the conditions of the Balkan Mountain. Each of the vultures will be marked with an individual PVC and metal ring, and matching wing-tags, to enable their further tracking in the wild. The release of these birds is foreseen for the spring of 2018, when they will join the birds released over the previous years.
This reintroduction project started in 2009 – the preparations go back to 2003!, and aims for the return of the griffon vultures in Stara Planina mountain range (Balkan Mountain) in Bulgaria, where the species got extinct about 100 years ago. A lot of effort has been put by several Bulgarian organizations: Green Balkans, the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF-Bulgaria), the Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds of Prey (BPPS) and the VCF, in collaboration with the Bulgarian Ministry for Environment and Waters. More than 200 birds have been released so far, most of them coming from Spain, but also from France and several European zoos (captive born). The first releases the first breeding attempt was recorded only four years after the first releases, and now there are about 15 breeding pairs.
The Reintroduction Project of Griffon Vulture in Bulgaria was manly implemented within the Life Project: “Vultures Return in Bulgaria” LIFE08 NAT/BG/278, led by Green Balkans, which finished in 2016. This vulture transport was organized within the new Life Project: “Тhe Bright Future for Black Vulture” LIFE14 NAT/BG/649 focus on finalizing the griffon vulture Reintroduction and start of the black vulture reintroduction in Bulgaria.