LIFE WITH VULTURES
Saving Griffon Vultures in Cyprus through concrete conservation actions
© Oliver Burton
|2019 to 2023
|Limassol and Paphos
The LIFE with Vultures project will implement concrete conservation actions to prevent Cyprus’ most threatened bird of prey from going extinct.
The Griffon Vulture was once a common sight in Cyprus, but today it is on the brink of extinction. In the 1950s, there were hundreds of birds, while today, the population stands at 20 vultures according to the latest population census in 2019, representing a 94% decrease. The reasons behind the decline are many, including illegal wildlife poisoning and lack of safe food availability.
LEARN ABOUT THE TARGET SPECIES
With funding from the EU’s LIFE programme, the project team will work on multiple levels to address the various threats the species face, restock their population and raise awareness among key stakeholders to preserve the remaining Griffon Vultures in Cyprus and boost the local population.
The illegal use of poisoned baits is the main reason for the collapse of the Griffon Vulture population in recent years and was the primary reason behind the extinction of the Cinereous Vulture in the country. The project will study and evaluate the scope of poisoning in the countryside to develop targeted protocols aiming to resolve human-wildlife conflict as well as improve the poisoning management procedures. Furthermore, LIFE with Vultures will create and operate two dog units for the detection of poisoning incidents, to facilitate investigations and to minimize mortality.
Apart from poisoning, Griffon Vultures face several other threats in Cyprus that need to be mitigated. The project will evaluate the current veterinary legislation related to the disposal of carcasses and produce relevant recommendations to improve feeding opportunities for these scavengers. Furthermore, LIFE with Vultures will provide safe food by creating an additional vulture restaurant to aid the re-establishment of the Griffon Vulture in other areas of the island. The project team will also identify the most dangerous electricity power lines close to breeding, feeding, and other important areas for the Griffon Vulture, and then secure those power lines with bird diverters to minimize the risk of collision, and so mortality.
Even if most of the threats are tackled, it will be very difficult for the current population to recover because of the extremely low number of Griffon Vultures present on the island. To restock the population, the project aims to transport around 28 birds coming from Spain and release them in Cyprus, helping boost the species recovery. Several protocols and actions will be adapted to maximise the chance of survival, including acclimatization and release strategy, equipping birds with GPS transmitters, providing veterinary support for birds if needed to help maximise survival of the released birds.
The project team aims to closely monitor the Griffon Vulture population and breeding in Cyprus through fieldwork, camera traps and GPS tracking to help support the conservation goals of the project.
To successfully conserve and ensure the sustainability of the species on the island, the project aims to form a national functioning network of stakeholders related to the protection of the Griffon Vulture and its threats. To achieve this, a number of trainings focusing on innovative toxicological analysis techniques, criminal investigation of poisoning incidents, vultures’ rehabilitation and veterinary treatment will take place in Cyprus and abroad to build capacity among the relevant stakeholder groups.
LIFE with Vultures is a partnership between BirdLife Cyprus, The Game and Fauna Service, Terra Cypria and the Vulture Conservation Foundation.
For more information, visit the LIFE with Vultures website.