Griffon vultures are on the verge of extinction in Cyprus, with only 10 birds and two regular breeding pairs remaining on that Mediterranean island. The birds were victims to poison, direct persecution and lack of food.
In the last two years a project was implemented to reverse the conservation fortunes of this species. The two years ‘Gypas’ Project, funded by the European Union, and led by the Game Fund, with BirdLife Cyprus, the Department of Forestry, the Natural History Museum of Crete and Gortyna Municipality in Crete, is about to finish. During the last 24 months dozens of actions were carried out all over the country, and in particular in the west of the island, where the remaining griffons live and breed.
Anti-poisoning information material and campaigns were implemented, and two new feeding sites for vultures were established, but the project also included an urgency restocking of the extremely small population, which could easily be wiped out due to chance events (bad weather, etc.).As a result, some new hacking cages were built, to house griffon vultures from Crete, where the population has grown in the last few years to reach now 240 breeding pairs (and over 700 individuals). In total 25 griffon vultures from Crete, mostly birds that entered rehabilitation centers because they were found weak, lost or poisoned, were sent to Cyprus – the last 10 arrived two weeks ago (see photos).
These griffons were put in acclimatization cages, and yesterday saw the release of the first birds – that had arrived some months ago. All the birds are released with GPS tags, so that their movements can be closely monitored. They also have wing tags and darvic colour rings.
The VCF has participated in an expert conference organized under this project, where we have advised the Game Fund on a variety of issues, including cage design and anti-poisoning activities. You can find more information on project Gypas at http://www.gypas.org/en/index.html