2013-5-31 - Baby in the cave – follow the new born Egyptian vulture through the nest webcam!

After 42 days of incubation, a baby Egyptian vulture nesting in a cave in southern Bulgaria was finally born. The pair’s family life has been followed through a webcam installed in the nest, as part of the LIFE+ project ‘The Return of the Neophron”. The baby vulture is very, very small, and most of the time cannot be distinguished yet from the wool that lines the nest, but soon it will grow – follow its antics here

2013-05-27 Aschka and Kalandraka released in the Swiss Alps

Photo:Markus P. Staehli - Stiftung Pro Bartgeier
Photo:Markus P. Staehli - Stiftung Pro Bartgeier
Photo: Markus P. Staehli - Stiftung Pro Bartgeier
Photo: Markus P. Staehli - Stiftung Pro Bartgeier

It was still winter when Kalandraka – a young bearded vulture - hatched on the 13th February in the Spanish breeding station at Guadalentin. This weekend, it was winter again when Kalandraka – and Aschka- were carried up the alpine slopes in Calfeisental (St. Gallen, central Switzerland) by an enthusiastic team from the Goldau Zoo - snow and wind swept the mountains, even if it was late May.

 

Aschka and Kalandraka are the latest two bearded vultures released in the Swiss Alps – part of the international alpine bearded vulture reintroduction project, in which the VCF plays an important part.

 

Bearded vultureswent extinct in the Alpine chain in the beginning of the 20th century. Towards the end of the same century, it was deemed that the threats that had driven it to extinction (direct persecution, poison and lack of food) had been minimized, so an ambitious reintroduction project started in 1986, using birds from the more than 30 Zoos and captive breeding centers coordinated by the VCF under the Bearded Vulture endangered species programme (EEPŞ).

 

Since then, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and all its partners in 4 countries (Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France) have released more than 185 birds across the Alps – and as a consequence, there are now more than 20 breeding pairs, and 30 territories, dispersed across the chain.

 

Kalandraka comes from a rare genetic lineage, originating in Spain. In the 1990s her father’s beak was so badly injured that it was not possible for him to survive in the wild. He was integrated into the international Bearded Vulture Breeding Programme and has been breeding successfully in the Guadalentín captive breeding centre ever since.

 

Aschka was born at the Owl and Bird of Prey Station Haringsee, the leading bearded vulture captive breeding facility in the world, and also belongs to a rare genetic lineage, with ancestors from Crete. With the introduction of Aschka and Kalandraka, the wild Alpine population will receive “fresh blood” and a boost in their genetic diversity.

 

The birds were reintroduced to the wild last Saturday (25th May). Each weighing about 5 Kg., they were carried through an unseasonal snow storm up the steep slopes of the Calfeisental Valley by a number of vulture enthusiasts.

 

Soon after release, Aschka (left below in the photo) and Kalandraka had an immediate scuffle – good news, as it indicates they are strong birds! The young vultures will spend the next few days eating, taking care of their growing plumage and sleeping, before finally trying their first flight – please see the latest on their development here.www.bartgeier.ch/bilderblog

 

The VCF would like to thank the Stiftung Pro Bartgeier for all their work and contribution to this project.

2103-05-25 - Young bearded vultures released in Cazorla (Andalucía), Spain

The first releases from the 2013 bearded vulture breeding programme, coordinated by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, took place this month in Cazorla, Andalucía.

 

Three young bearded vultures –one born in the local captive breeding centre in Cazorla run by the Fundación Gypaetus and the Junta de Andalucía, a second from the breeding center of Valcallent (Lérida- Generalitat de Catalonia) and third from the breeding center in Haute Savoie (France) run by local NGO ASTERS- were successfully released on some ledges on the 18th May.

 

The birds were named by local school children, who could see them at close quarters prior to their release. They were baptized as Guadalquivir (male) , Vera (female) and Estela (female) , After a brief but exciting session with more than 50 local schoolchildren, the young bearded vultures were moved to the release cave, deep inside the Natural Park of Sierra de Castril. They will stay there for about 4 weeks before finally reaching the fledgling age. Soon, they will fly high above the sierras of Jaen and Granada

 

This release is part of the long running bearded vulture reintroduction project, led by the Junta de Andalucía, itself integrated into an European programme for the conservation of the species, that involves more than 30 zoos and specialized captive breeding centers, national, regional and local research centers, national parks and NGOs. The species is being reintroduced both to the Alps and to the mountains of southern Spain, to try to establish a continuum population from south Iberia to the Alps through the Pyrenees (where the species populations are healthy).

Next month, two more bearded vultures will be released in Andalucía, coming from the German Zoos Tierpark Berlin and Nuremberg.

 

The species disappeared from Andalusia in the mid-80s, and ten years later the Junta de Andalucía started an ambitious project to bring these magnificent birds back. In 1996 it established the state of the art captive breeding center high up in the Cazorla mountains, and in 2006 the first vultures were released back to the wild. With the 3 birds now released, a total of 26 birds were already reintroduced to the wild in southern Spain, of which 18 are surviving. Some problems with poisoning halted the releases some years ago, but due to the intensive anti-poisoning campaign led by the Junta, together with all the important local stakeholders (including the SEPRONA police force, municipalities, hunters and farmers), there has been no more poisoning of bearded vulture during the last 2 years, so releases have restarted now. It is hoped this project, locally a reason for local pride, will become an engine for development of the rural communities involved.

 

The individuals now released come from different origins to maximize their genetic variability, and thus maximize their survival. The VCF coordinates the database for all the captive bearded vultures in Europe, and then decides each year about the destiny of the young birds produced each Spring – usually sending birds across Europe to boost genetic variety, and strengthen genetic lineages. Of the 6 birds hatched in the bearded vulture captive breeding center in Cazorla, one of them was already released locally, and one will be kept in captivity to balance the sex-ratio and strengthen genetic lines, while the other four have been sent to France and Switzerland, where they will be released.

 

The VCF thanks the Junta de Andalucía, Fundación Gypaetus, and all the local staff, who have, over the years, invested a lot of money, effort, know-how and good will in an effort to bring this species back to Andalucía. For more information see http://www.gypaetus.org/noticias/ver/id/212/seccion/participa_noticias

The young bearded vultures were taken to their release cave deep inside the Sierra de Castril by staff from Fundacion Gypaetus and Junta de Andalucia
The young bearded vultures were taken to their release cave deep inside the Sierra de Castril by staff from Fundacion Gypaetus and Junta de Andalucia
The birds in their release cave. They will fledge by mid-June, until when they will be fed and cared for by the local staff Photo: Fundacion Gypaetus
The birds in their release cave. They will fledge by mid-June, until when they will be fed and cared for by the local staff Photo: Fundacion Gypaetus

2013-05-22 VCF publishes landmark compilation on the Balkan vultures

BVAP - 10 years of research and conserva
Adobe Acrobat Document 4.4 MB

"Vulture Conservation in the Balkan Peninsula and Adjacent Regions - 10 Years of Research and Conservation"has just been published by the VCF.

 

This publication gives an overview of the vulture conservation work done in the Balkan Peninsula and the adjacent regions during the last decade. Papers have been contributed from Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, following the last Balkan Vulture Action Plan Workshop (11–13 May 2011, Vratsa, Bulgaria). Each article is followed by information on its author/s.

 

The main goal of this publication is to present the actual status and trends of the four European vulture species in each country and show the conservation work done over the last ten years.

 

The costs for this publication were covered by the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS) and the work was coordinated by Jovan Andevski through the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF)

 

The electronic version is available for download here

2013-05-06 Glocknerlady released in National Park Hohe Tauern on 5th May

Glocknerlady (named after the highest mountain in Austria, the Großglockner, which is close to the release place in Heiligenblut) was successfully released last weekend in the heart of the Austrian Alps, as part of the project to reintroduce bearded vultures back into the mountains.

 

The species went extinct in the Alpine chain in the beggining of the 20th century. Towards the end of the same century, it was deemed that the threats that had driven it to extinction (direct persecution, poison and lack of food) had been minimized, so an ambitious reintroduction project started in 1986. Since then, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and all its partners in 3 countries (Austrian, Switzerland and France) have released more than 185 birds across the Alps – and as a consequence, there are now more than 20 breeding pairs, and 30 territories, dispersed across the chain.

 

Glocknerlady was born in March 2012 in the Guadalentin captive breeding centre – in Andalucía, Spain – a parallel reintroduction project is happening in southern Spain, generously supported by the Junta de Andalucía. It was first released in June last year, in the Fleißtal valley in Austria, and flew away from the ledge where it was deposited as a full grown young on the 24th July 2012.

 

Between July and November Glocknerlady roamed across the Alps (see map below), but on 03.11.2012 it was found near Celje, Slovenia with wet feathers, weak and unable to fly, suffering from suspected lead poisoning. Brought to the Richard Faust Center in Haringsee, it was treated and recovered, and now it has been released again.

The map of Glocknerladies journey is provided by SWILD/D.Hegglin.
The map of Glocknerladies journey is provided by SWILD/D.Hegglin.

Soon after release, Glocknerlady produced a perfect flight presentation above the small group of people assembled at the top of Schareck peak, and even fought with a Golden Eagle, before she finally disappeared into the mountainous realm.

 

Her marking patterns are shown below

Marking pattern of BG718 Glocknerlady, IBM/NPHT www.gyp-monitoring.com
Marking pattern of BG718 Glocknerlady, IBM/NPHT www.gyp-monitoring.com

Egyptian vultures live! Check the images from some nests in Bulgaria

2013-04-30 A Black Vulture in Eastern Balkan Mountains for a first time in more than thirty years!

On April 23d a photo-trap set at the vulture supplementary feeding site in the Sinite Kamani Nature Park (Bulgaria) captured a young Black Vulture, feeding together with the usual group of foraging Griffons. This is the first observation of the species in the Eastern Balkan Mountains for more than thirty years!

The black vulture was together with 21 Griffon Vultures, mostly individuals released by the Vultures Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project, but also a young Griffon from Serbia as well as several wild, non-tagged young and sub-adult Griffon Vultures.

Black Vulture was widely distributed in Bulgaria in the past, mostly in the plain areas, less often in hilly areas and in broad-leaved forest belt - Dobrudzha, Ludogorie, Shumen and Provadija plateaus, the Danube plain, the slopes of Sakar, Vitosha, the mountains surrounding Sofia, the Rhodopes and South-eastern Bulgaria. The extensive use of poison against large carnivores, and some direct persecution, lead to the complete extinction of the species as nesting bird in Bulgaria.

 

The last confirmed nest of the species was found in the area of the Studen Kladenets Reservoir in 1997, and since then breeding has not been confirmed. However, Black Vultures from the Dadia Reserve, Northern Greece (the only breeding colony in the Balkans) often cross the border in search of food and use the supplementary feeding sites in southern Bulgaria.

 

Single birds have been reported in the Eastern Balkan Mountains in the 1970s, and the last nesting attempts there were recorded in the afforested hills near Provadija. Since then no Black vultures had been seen in the region.


Congratulation to the entire team of Green Balkans and FWFF for their hard work.

For more information, please contact:
Elena Kmetova - project coordinator: + 359 885 219557; ekmetova@greenbalkans.org

2013-04-04 VCF and BirdLife International send joint letter to European and Greek authorities about recent poisoning incident in Greece

Dramatic blow to endangered Egyptian Vulture Population
Joint letter VCF-BirdLife International on the recent poisoning incident in Greece
Letter BirdLife-VCF Egyptian Vulture poi
Adobe Acrobat Document 117.8 KB

2013-04-04 - Poison kills Egyptian vultures in Greece

Lazarus was found dead thanks to its satellite transmitter together with another Egyptian vulture (Photo: HOS/ Lavrentis Sidiropoulos)
Lazarus was found dead thanks to its satellite transmitter together with another Egyptian vulture (Photo: HOS/ Lavrentis Sidiropoulos)

Two Egyptian vultures were found dead by poison on the 2nd of April, close to Amfipoli, Northern Greece, by researchers from the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS). The vultures were on their way to Meteora after their annual migration to Africa to winter in Chad, and had only just arrived to Greece.

 

The birds were located thanks to the satellite transmitter that “Lazarus” – as one of the two vultures was named – had been fitted with since last April as part of one of the actions implemented within the framework of a LIFE project for the conservation of the species. Ironically, this same bird had already been saved from poisoning last year thanks to the quick intervention of a local livestock breeder. The transmitter allowed researchers to monitor its migration from Greece to Africa and back home – this last part of the trip had only started in mid March.

 

But his return back home proved to be ignominious... After having safely crossed over four different countries - Egypt, Israel, Syria and Turkey-, that which proved to be the most dangerous one was Greece as only two days in the country were enough to cut short Lazarus' trip to his breeding grounds. He was found dead next to another Egyptian vulture, probably his future breeding pair – his previous pair having also been poisoned during 2012 in Meteora.

 

Illegal use of poison baits is not new or rare. However, during the last years it has sharply increased once again in the rural areas of Greece. In the recent past, poison has led to the extinction of several protected raptor species from numerous regions of the country, while nowadays it still continues to drastically limit the last remaining populations. Society and public authorities show an alarming indifference to the problem of illegal use of poison regardless of the many efforts and resources that have already been invested in the past to save these species. Two clear examples are the mass poisoning leading to the extermination of the largest colony of Griffon vulture in continental Greece at Nestos Gorge, and the poisoned Black vulture found at Loutra, Evros.

 

Four severe cases of poisoning of protected species have taken place since the start of 2013: two Great Spotted eagles in Nestos Delta, a wolf in Olympus mountain, a bear and its cub in Grevena and lastly this new case of two Egyptian vultures in Serres.

 

In the fight against poison, the Greek public authorities have not even appointed a laboratory for toxicological analyses, which is absolutely necessary in order to confirm the cause of death. At the same time, investigations following most of the poisoning events reported by the environmental organizations during the last years have proved fruitless. As regards the protection and guarding of rural areas, they can be characterised, at the very least, as insufficient in a time when the problem has become more acute than ever. The environmental organizations have assessed the problem and submitted their proposals to the relevant authorities, but have received no answer until now.

 

According to Thanos Kastritis, HOS Conservation Manager: “With less than 20 pairs left in the country, each loss brings the Egyptian vulture closer to extinction in Greece. The illegal use of poison baits shames Greece internationally as it obliterates the efforts to save this endangered species, and also it throws into the rubbish all the money invested by the European Union and other entities in biodiversity conservation. The illegal use of poison baits is still a common practice in the rural areas of our country because the offenders know they will not be condemned. Therefore, we cannot accept any longer the State’s elusions or excuses regarding their inability to identify and punish them”.

 

2013-04-02 Griffon Vultures lay an egg in the Eastern Balkan Mountains for a second year in a row

First pictures of the egg
First pictures of the egg

This is the first breeding pair of Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Balkan Mountains for the past 50 years. The two birds were released back in 2009 by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna from a special adaptation aviary set up near the town of Kotel. We told you about them last year, once we discovered their nest near the Reservoir of Tsonevo, thanks to a prototype GPS/GSM transmitter, fixed on the male - 7G. The, due to disturbance or lack of experience, the pair could not hatch their very first egg.

This year the French-Spanish pair of Griffons decided to move closer and took a rock niche in direct proximity to the supplementary feeding site above Kotel, maintained within the Vulutres Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project. The family constructed their nest on a niche of North exposure, which was our first concern. Furthermore, due to the constant presence of food for the rest of the released vultures, the area is also inhabited by an active pair of Golden Eagles and a lot of Ravens. Golden Eagles are very grumpy neighbours, while Ravens would love a left-for-a-minute-egg for breakfast.

Unfortunately all our fears got confirmed and around March 20th it became clear that the two birds have given up their second nesting attempt. On March 25th a team of alpinists of Green Balkans climbed into the abandoned niche to rescue a potentially abandoned egg. Unfortunately all we found were egg shells. The good news is that they obviously had an egg for a second year in a row. The pair is relatively young and non-experienced and this might explain their lack of success. The husband came from the French Zoo de Doue and this is barely his second attempt. Such things also happen in nature, among the wild pairs. Furthermore, the egg of our captive Griffon Vultures kept in the Wildlife Rescue Centre of Green Balkans - Stara Zagora was also proven not to hatch this year.

We hope that the experience our young parents is gaining will eventually help them and we are looking forward to their next attempt!

For more information, please contact:
Elena Kmetova – project coordinator;
e-mail: ekmetova@greenbalkans.org; phone: + 359 885 219 557

2013-03-09 - International Conference on the Protection of Griffon Vultures in Cyprus

Photo by Melpo Apostelidou
Photo by Melpo Apostelidou

The VCF was present at the International Conference on the Protection of Griffon Vultures, that was held between 6-8 March at Elias Beach Hotel in Cyprus. 

 

The Conference was attended by scientists specialising in vulture conservation, from Cyprus and abroad, as well as representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organizations working to conserve vultures.

 

The participants had the opportunity to exchange views and experiences on vulture conservation, providing their expertise in protecting and enhancing the population, reintroduction of species, best practices, monitoring and inventory techniques etc. With the knowledge gained from the conference, an Action Plan and Protocol for the protection of Vultures in Cyprus will be elaborated.

 

The conference was organised under the project Gypas, that aims at enriching the extremely small population of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus with individuals from Crete, so that the population recovers. The project is carried out under the ‘Cross Border Cooperation Programme Greece-Cyprus 2007-2013’, and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and national funds of Greece and Cyprus. See http://www.gypas.org/en

2013-03-03 VCF facilitated the international workshop for the development of the Species Action Plan for the Egyptian vulture in Greece

The Egyptian vulture is one of the most threatened species in Greece
The Egyptian vulture is one of the most threatened species in Greece

The two day international workshop took place on the 28 of February and 1st of March in Athens, Greece. A total of 27 experts from Spain, France, Italy, FYROM, Bulgaria and Greece and from different organizations and institutions (public authorities, research centres, universities, NGOs, etc) joined their efforts to draw conclusions for the necessary measures needed in the country in order to guarantee the survival of the species in the near future.


The main threats that were recognized as the driver of the strong decline of the Egyptian vultures in Greece were the illegal poisoning, the shift of the traditional livestock practices and the change of rubbish dump system. Together with the intensive monitoring and research, and minimizing the disturbance, these will be the main directions of conservation activities in the next years.

 

 

 

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