This year, four captive-bred Egyptian Vultures of different ages were released in the Italian wild to boost the threatened local population of the species. CERM Association Centro Rapaci Minacciati and ISPRA Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale carried out these releases on 15 August 2020 as part of the LIFE Egyptian Vulture project. The vultures were equipped with satellite transmitters provided by us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) to monitor their movements and help tackle threats. Thanks to the GPS tags the project team can monitor the movements of these birds. As it turns out, one successfully reached Africa, while the another bird needed to be rescued in Italy.
Clint that hatched at CERM on 31 May 2020 and was released in Basilicata alongside three other young Egyptian Vultures on 15 August is making his first, long and dangerous migration to the African wintering districts.
On 26 August, Clint started heading south from the release area in the Murgia Materana Regional Park. He quickly crossed Calabria and then crossed the Strait of Messina on 2 September. The following day, after leaving the south-western coasts of Sicily, he reached the island of Pantelleria, flying over 108 km of open sea in two hours and 19 minutes, at an average of about 46 km/h. He remained on the small island for only a night before continuing his journey, travelling another 136 km across the sea, reaching the Tunisian coasts on 4 September. He then continued his migration southwards crossing Tunisia first and then entering the Algerian desert. On 8 September, the team received the last signal from Clint’s radio, which indicated that he was in the heart of the Sahara, on the same day when he reached 100 days of age.
From now on, the chances of his radio connecting with a GSM antenna are slim, so the only hope is that he will safely leave the desert to receive a new data transmission, which could even occur after many months.
Zoe’s life in the wild was short-lived. She was released alongside Clint and the other two vultures on 15 August in the Murgia Materana Park, but after a few weeks, she needed some help.
Zoe hatched in CERM in May 2019 and remained in the aviaries of the Centre until her liberation this year. After her release, Zoe wandered around Puglia and on the border between Campania and Molise. ISPRA experts were closely monitoring her movements and behaviour in the field. Due to the worrying behaviour, on 7 September, Zoe was recovered in Jelsi, in Molise, fearing about her health and whether she would survive in the wild.
On 7 September, after Zoe landed near some rural buildings in the countryside of Jelsi, next to a chicken coop, Guido Ceccolini from CERM promptly alerted the naturalist Carlo Fracasso. At the same time, the owners of the Michele D’amico and Andrea Valiante farm alerted their friends Lino Cirucci and Francesca Spensieri. The three naturalists rushed to the scene to rescue the young vulture.
While Zoe was placed in a safe place, supervised and fed, Enzo Cripezzi, from LIPU of Foggia, Matteo Visceglia and Mariangela Francione, members of the CERM Association and managers of CRAS Matera, took action. Thanks to their efforts, within a few hours Zoe was transferred to the CRAS in Matera. Fortunately, Zoe did not suffer from anything severe. Once submitted to the Centre, she was very underweight, tired and hungry, probably resulting due to inexperience and leaving the release area prematurely.
Zoe will remain at CRAS temporarily until she recovers. So far, she is doing well and is regaining her strength. Now, only time will tell what the future holds for Zoe. Depending on her progress and other factors, the project team will decide whether she will be rereleased in 2021 or not.
Well done to all involved in rescuing Zoe efficiently to ensure her safety.