The Bearded Vulture LIFE project has a new website, where you can follow all the updates and efforts in Bulgaria. The seven-year project will bring the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) back from extinction in Bulgaria and strengthen the reintroduced populations of Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus).
By improving food and habitat conditions, releasing individuals and mitigating the main threats affecting their survival, the “Bearded Vulture LIFE” project will restore the former range of Bearded and Cinereous Vulture populations in the Balkans and help the genetic flow between Western Europe, Africa and Asia.
Restoring the Bearded Vulture population in Bulgaria
The Bearded Vulture is regionally extinct in the mainland Balkan Peninsula, and cannot naturally recover, despite improved habitats and positive human attitudes. Nearby populations in the Alps, Turkey, and Crete do not efficiently reproduce and disperse to recolonize the Balkans. One of the main actions of the project is to release 15 captive-bred juveniles into the wild in Bulgaria, that hatched within the Bearded Vulture Captive-Breeding Network (Bearded Vulture EEP) coordinated by us at the VCF on behalf of EAZA’s Ex-Situ programme.
Strengthening the Cinereous Vulture guild
The Cinereous Vulture is found in a small, isolated colony in Dadia Forest, Greece, with slow or no population growth. The reintroduction of Cinereous vultures in the Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria, was a promising step, but the population is still too small (around 45 individuals). This project aims to release birds in Bulgaria to expedite the species’ recovery within its historical breeding range. In total, 70-100 individuals mainly coming from Spain, will be released until the project’s end. The measure will five-fold the population size and facilitate the connection between different reagions.
To react and fight wildlife crime, national institutions will be engaged and receive training in forensic toxicology within the Wildlife Crime Academy (in Spain) to boost the implementation of the National Anti-poisoning Strategy in Bulgaria. Also, on-the-job training of real cases for investigation will be provided to 30 institutional teams.
Both the Bulgarian and Romanian teams will increase their capacity to organise reintroduction programmes for both species. Hopefully, our colleagues in Romania will, in a couple of years, be able to kick-start a reintroduction project to restore vulture species in the country.
The Bearded Vulture LIFE Project
The €5,17 million EU-funded project started in August 2023 and runs until 2030 to upscale the impressive conservation results of the previous project , Vultures Back to Life. The Green Balkans coordinates the project with the involvement of five partner organisations in Bulgaria; us at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), responsible for translocating and securing the captive-bred birds that will be released; and the Romanian partner Milvus group, responsible for implementing conservation actions in Romania.