The new LIFE Safe for Vultures project aims to ensure the long-term survival of the Griffon Vulture in Sardinia. Wildlife poisoning in Sardinia presents one of the major threats to this species, so it is crucial to combat this issue. A key way the project strives to do so is through using Anti-poison Dog Units (APDU).
The problem of wildlife poisoning in Sardinia
Unfortunately, even today in the agro-pastoral world, some defend crops and livestock by illegally poisoning animals considered as pests at all costs. Pesticides and other materials highly harmful to animals are often purchased legally but used illegally with possible direct or indirect adverse repercussions on animals, humans and the environment. Yet, there is hope to combat this severe problem. The Corpo Forestale e di Vigilanza Ambientale della Regione Sardegna (Cfva) notes that poisoning cases have decreased on the island with the help of the Anti-poison Dog Unit, established on an experimental basis within the LIFE Under Griffon Wings project that successfully promoted the growth of the Griffon Vulture population in the northwest of Sardinia. Now, the new LIFE Safe for Vultures project strives to reinforce the local population and bring the Griffon Vulture back to the whole of Sardinia. Therefore, the commitment against wildlife poisoning extended to the whole island by training anti-poison dogs and agents of Cfva to join the efforts of the existing APDU.
Training the new members of the Anti-poison Dog Unit
The theoretical-practical training course for the agents, coordinated by veterinarian Raffaella Cocco, a researcher at the Department of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Sassari and responsible for dog training, was recently completed with the support of forestry agents who are already part of the Anti-poison Dog Unit.
The activity was concentrated in a cycle of four theoretical and practical days. During the theoretical sessions, the training discussed the Griffon Vulture in Sardinia, the results of the first project and the scope of the project that just started. They also talked about the other threats on which LIFE Safe for Vultures intervenes, and then focused on the phenomenon of poisoning and concluded with a discussion on ethology and physiology of the dog, how to communicate, and learned about welfare and health, dog training techniques, dog conduction, research systems and legislation. In the practical part, the sessions illustrated the activity of the already active units: how to equip oneself, how to divide tasks, how to plan interventions and patrols and which protocols to follow in case of carcass detection. Finally, they conducted demonstrations with the dogs in training and those already in action on how to carry out a search and a recovery.
We wish good luck to the new members of the APDU in effectively fighting the threat of wildlife poisoning in Sardinia!
LIFE Safe for Vultures
LIFE Safe for Vultures is a new project co-financed by the EU’s LIFE Programme, acting as the first step to the restoration of the vulture guild in Sardinia. The University of Sassari leads the project in collaboration with Agenzia Regionale Forestas, Sardegna Corpo Forestale, E-Distribuzione and the Vulture Conservation Foundation. LIFE Safe for Vultures builds on the work of the successful LIFE Under Griffon Wings, with the ultimate objective for Griffon Vultures to regain their historic ranges and distribution areas from the central-eastern part of Sardinia to the south and at the same time promote the long-term survival of the species on the island. The project team is working to expand the network of farm feeding stations, create several anti-poison dog units to tackle wildlife poisoning, establish an additional feeding station in the south of the island, restock the population by importing 40 additional Griffon Vultures and reduce the threat of collision and electrocution with energy infrastructures.