The regional government of Andalusia handed over this week 13 Eurasian black vultures (Aegypius monachus) to the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and the Grupo de Rehabilitación de la Fauna y su Hábitat (GREFA), in a ceremony hosted by Maria Jesús Serrano, the Regional Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Rafaela Crespín Rubio (the central government Delegate in Andalusia) and Rafael Arenas (manager of protected areas in Andalusia), and that took place in Córdoba.
The birds included 9 unrecoverable (permanently wounded) black vultures, and 4 healthy young, that entered rehabilitation centers in the province, and will now be released in the two on-going reintroduction projects elsewhere.
Andalusia is one of the most important strongholds for the Black Vulture, with a population of about 320 breeding pairs. Every year many birds are found in bad physical condition, or injured. They enter the impressive network of rehabilitation centers managed by the Junta. While some of them are quickly rehabilitated and then released, others have serious injuries that prevent them from surviving in the wild, broken wings, amputated feet, etc.
The Junta de Andalucia has now handed over 9 birds with permanent injuries to the VCF and GREFA, so that they are used in the captive breeding programme. GREFA received 3 unrecoverable birds, to join the two pairs they already have at their captive breeding facilities in Madrid, while VCF received 6 birds, that will now be distributed among zoos in Spain, France and the UK, as part of the black vulture EEP (European Endangered species Programme), co–coordinated by EAZA and Planckendael Zoo (Mechelen, Belgium).
The 4 healthy birds have also been handed over to GREFA and the VCF – two for release in the GREFA-led reintroduction project in the Catalan Pyrenees, and two for the LPO-led reintroduction project in France – both projects have now already re-established the species in those regions, with several breeding pairs raising successfully young in nature.
The black vulture population has been increasing in Spain, and totals now more than 2,000 pairs, mostly in Extremadura and Andalusia. Black vultures went extinct in France more than 100 years ago, but a reintroduction project started in the early 90s in the Grands Causses. There 53 individuals were released between 1992 and 2004, both from wild origin (rehabilitation centers in Spain) and also from captive breeding. In 2004 black vultures started to be released in two other release sites, in the Southern Alps – in Baronnies and in the Gorges du Verdon. There are now more than 30 breeding pairs of black vultures at the three release sites in France, and while releases will continue for 2-3 more years, the species has now been firmly re-established – a great wildlife comeback only made possible by a joint, solid cross border collaboration between the French and the Spanish ministries, the Juntas de Extremadura and Andalusia and NGOs like the VCF, Association Vautours en Baronnies, the Black Vulture Conservation foundation and LPO.
The VCF would like to thank the Junta de Andalusia for all their efforts for the conservation of the black vulture and their unwavering support for the reintroduction projects.