Following a request from the NGO Green Balkans, who is leading a LIFE+ project to reintroduce the griffon vulture in some parts of Bulgaria, the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and the Junta de Andalucía worked together to send 35 griffons vultures to that country.
These were handed over to the Bulgarian colleagues this week in Sevilla, during an official event organized by the local government (also marking the sending of two black vultures to a reintroduction project in Catalonia). The griffon vultures will be transported by land, in a 3700km trip to southeastern Europe. After arrival they will spend the quarantine period in the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre – Stara Zagora (run by Green Balkans), and will then be released next Spring in the four project areas in Bulgaria: national park Central Balkan, and nature reserves Vrachanski Balkan, Blue Rocks and Kotlenska Stara Planina Mountain.
Spain has the largest griffon vulture population in the world (25,000 pairs, circa 100,000 individuals), which underwent a significant increase in the last few decades. Every Summer-Fall, hundreds of griffons, mostly young in their first dispersion travels, are found weak, injured or starving across the country, and enter rehabilitation centers. This year the Junta de Andalucía and the VCF reserved 35 of them for the reintroduction/restocking project in Bulgaria, and together they have dealt with all the legal permits, and the necessary veterinary controls, to send the vultures to Bulgaria.
Green Balkans is leading a LIFE+ project (LIFE08 NAT/BG/278), started in 2010, and that will finish next year, aiming to restore vulture populations in Bulgaria, severely depleted because of direct persecution and poison. These threats seem to be under control, so one of the actions of the project is to reintroduce the griffon both in the Central Balkan mountains and in SW Bulgaria– the species is presently confined to a few breeding colonies in the eastern Rodophes, on the border with Greece (67 breeding pairs this year).
Until now, 160 griffons have been released in Bulgaria under this project, and 80% of those came from Spain – the rest originated in France and in Zoos (through captive breeding, EEP). All of them have been marked, and they are closely monitored. A number of feeding stations have also been set up. Mortality rate so far is low (17+%), mostly because of electrocution, and the first breeding attempts in the wild have started two years ago – even though most of the birds released are too young to breed.
All these project activities are part of the long-term Balkan Vulture Action Plan (BVAP), initiated in 2002, and led by the VCF. The BVAP includes 8 countries and more than 30 local NGOs, working together vulture conservation.
The LIFE+ project led by Green Balkans is a result of a collaborative effort between local and international organisations, including the VCF, the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS), Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU), FWFF-Bulgaria and BPPB.
The VCF strives to restore vulture populations and range across Europe, and is thus giving a contribution to this valuable project. It is hoped it will result in the reestablishment of the griffon across Bulgaria.