The recently approved Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (MsAP) - a global blueprint for the conservation of old world vultures, identifies electrocution as an important threat to vultures (and other species) worldwide.
It is then heartening to see that people are taking this issue seriously and working to mitigate the risks – not only in Europe, but elsewhere. In Iran, for example, a group of conservationists, ornithologists and bird enthusiasts is doing a fantastic job minimizing the mortality of vultures and other raptors by electrocution in an important flyway for raptors.
The Iran´s Bird and Powerlines Committee (IBPLC) has been working with power companies, protected area managers and officials, through workshops, public awareness and concrete mitigation work on the ground, to reduce the risk of electrocution in some areas. With relatively few means, they have managed to insulate already some dozens of poles in the desert zone of Meyghan Wetland (Arak), and in the Rasvand Wildlife_Refuge (Shazand, Markazi province).
Hundreds of vultures are killed globally every year when they perch on medium-tension poles, particularly ones with pole designs that make it easy for the bird to touch both the cables and the pylon at the same time. The risk of electrocution is higher in arid desert areas with few cliffs and no trees, where pylons often provide the only perches available, or in periods of harsh weather - when it rains vultures can’t fly properly, and for this reason they tend to perch on trees, cliffs or electric power lines.
The threat of electrocution is also often underestimated because dead birds under pylons are often quickly removed by predators.
There are a number of technical solutions to mitigate this threat – the best would be to bury the line or change the pole type, but a relatively cheap insulation could work for some years and reduce the risk of vulture (and other raptors) mortality.
Well done to our Iranian colleagues that are selflessly working to save vultures and raptors in their country. You are indeed already part of the “community of implementers” of the vulture MsAP - keep on the good work!