Right now, the VCF and our partners are reintroducing or restocking bearded vultures in 5 different regions of Europe and all these projects depend on the 174 birds which are part of the Bearded Vulture European Endangered Species Programme - a captive breeding network for conservation, led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and which has been working non-stop since 1978.
We urgently need to transport 19 bearded vultures across Europe to help them be safe from disease and to find partners. And we need your help to make it happen!
For the first time, the VCF is launching a public fundraising campaign. We want you to be part of the comeback of the bearded vulture to the European skies!
The Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network
All our bearded vulture conservation projects depend on the network of 36 zoos, five specialized breeding centres and two private collections, that are home to the 174 birds which are part of the Bearded Vulture European Endangered Species Programme. This captive breeding programme for conservation has been led by us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and has been working non-stop since 1978.
It’s a long story and it all started in the 70’s
Two hundred years ago, bearded vultures were found in all the mountains of southern Europe, from Western Spain to the Balkans, through the Pyrenees and the Alps. However, due to a decrease in wild herbivores, changes in farming practices, poisoning and persecution, the population of the species crashed and by the beginning of the 20th century it had disappeared throughout most of its former range.
The species went extinct in the Alps, and in Europe it was also on the verge of extinction, with less than 60 breeding pairs remaing in the wild, in the Pyrenees, in Corsica and in Crete.
At the same time only 40 birds existed in captivity, distributed in different zoos and only one pair was breeding with success at the Alpenzoo, at Innsbruck (Austria). This breeding success inspired a handful of people to start a reintroduction project based on a captive breeding program, using these 40 existing birds.
Since 1986, more than 301 bearded vultures have been captive-bred and released into the wild in Europe, in what is known as one of the most successful stories of a species recovery from extinction.
Only this year, we have released 13 bearded vultures into the wild!
The bearded vulture are now back in the Alps (52 breeding pairs) and in Andalusia (2 breeding pairs and 2 other nesting pairs), and we are currently developing reintroduction efforts in the Alps (Switzerland and Austria), in Cazorla (Andalusia, Spain), in the Massif Central (France), in Corsica (France) and, more recently, in Maestrazgo (Valencia, Spain).
And more than 300 bearded vultures have already been born in the wild from established wild breeding pairs!
What’s next for the bearded vulture?
The reintroduction of the bearded vulture into Europe is one of the world´s greatest wildlife comeback stories of all times, and an ongoing project and adventure that continues to gather stakeholders, members of the public, and general interest, all around. From near extinction in Europe we have managed, in a few decades, to bring back the species to the Alps and Andalusia, we are continuing to work towards restoring the species across the continent, and to continue with this success in the long term, we need to release more birds in the coming years and also in new release areas.
So yearly we need to make sure we have more captive bred young to release into the wild! This means we need some of the birds to find a suitable partner in the captive breeding network and to help them be safe from disease like the West Nile virus. And this requires some transfers of birds between partners of the captive breeding network.
We need your help!
We are launching our first ever public funding campaign - aiming to raise €7,500 to help us find new homes and new mates for 19 bearded vultures. They will be transported across the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network over the coming weeks in time for the start of breeding season. Some of them will be travelling by plane, others by car, and we need your help to secure these transports.
Your support is critical for us to be able to provide safe and quick transport for these birds. We have been able to secure funding for technical work, housing of birds, vet assistance, through private funding from ourselves, zoos and other organizations. But we do not have funds for these transports.
If you'd like to support our work you can visit our Bearded Vultures on the Move fundraising page where we have some fantastic rewards for everyone who will support us, including exclusive postcard images from wildlife photographer Hansruedi Weyrich and t-shirts and tote bags from illustrator Rohan Chak. You can also book a personal visit to a specialized breeding centre or get in touch with our bearded vulture specialists on a one-on-one skype conversation. Pick your perk and join us on this amazing journey to bring the bearded vulture back to the European skies!