A new life for (four) Griffon Vultures in Croatia – LIFE SUPport

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On September 15, four rehabilitated Griffon Vultures were set free on the island of Cres, one of the Croatian Kvarner islands. The four young vultures, Palina, Coline, Lima and Anton, were found exhausted near their cliffside nest facing the sea, and some were rescued from drowning. After rehabilitation at the Beli Griffon Vulture Recovery Center, they are now freely exploring the picturesque Kvarner islands. The new LIFE SUPport project represents a leap of faith for the future of the endangered Croatian Griffon Vulture population.

Griffon Vulture release on Cres Island, Croatia – LIFE SUPPort © BIOM

Four rehabilitated Griffon Vultures were released on Cres Island, Croatia

The last vulture species in Croatia, the Griffon Vulture, is considered Endangered in the country, with an estimated population of 125 breeding pairs. The species is mainly absent from the mainland, with the last colonies breeding in the Kvarner islands (which include Cres, Krk, Plavnki and Prvić).

As cliff breeders, Croatian Griffon Vultures are among the few colonies that nest right above the sea. They build their nests on impressively steep cliffs. This poses a threat to the unskilled fledglings that get too exhausted or cannot fly and fall into the sea. Drowning is among the primary common mortality causes of Kvarner vultures.

Rehabilitation at the Beli Wildlife Rescue Centre

Palina, Coline, Lima and Anton were luckily rescued in the islands of Cres and Plavnik. All birds were rehabilitated at the Beli Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures in Cres, managed by the Public Institution “Priroda”. In Croatia, there is a network of 11 wildlife recovery centres that play a fundamental role in welcoming, nurturing and rehabilitating wild animals to be released into nature.

Back in the wild again

After recovering their weight and fitness under the attentive care of the team at Beli centre, the juveniles became ready to be released again in the wild. Ahead of the release, the four Griffon Vultures were thoroughly examined, including blood analysis, with the collaboration of the  Zagreb Zoo.

They were also fitted with lightweight GPS transmitters, ensuring continuous monitoring of the birds’ movements as they regain their freedom. Griffon Vulture Paline, Coline, Lima and Anton were released on 15 September in Cres, a fantastic milestone for the LIFE SUPport project partners’ meeting and workshop that took place that same week.

GPS Tagging methods, a workshop for local partners

During the LIFE SUPport team meeting, there was a workshop about strategies and methods for tagging vultures with GPS transmitters. The workshop was led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation’s tagging experts and hosted by the Beli Recovery Centre. Participants from the Public Institution “Priorida” and BIOM Association learnt how to prepare GPS transmitters and fit them using leg loop harnesses. This method, widely used by the VCF and partners in several restocking projects across Europe, is the most animal-friendly option, providing fewer chances of potential disturbances to the bird.

Tagging workshop in Cres island, Croatia within the LIFE SUPport project © BIOM

“In the work of a recovery centre, the moment when a wild species “returns” to nature is particularly joyful. They are given a chance for a new beginning! When there is also the possibility of actively monitoring the individual in the wild to confirm whether the individual is doing well, the satisfaction is even greater”,

said Marko Modrić, Director of the Public Institution Priroda, on the occasion of the release of the vultures.

Securing a future for Griffon Vultures in Croatia

The LIFE SUPport aims to strengthen Croatia’s endangered Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) population. A 5-year project co-financed by the EU’s  will create better conditions for the species to thrive and recolonise its historical breeding ground on the Croatian mainland. The project aims to improve breeding and survival conditions, minimise nest disturbance, reduce nestling mortality, tackle the threat of poison, mitigate collision and electrocution risks, and increase food availability. 

LIFE SUPport project logo

The LIFE SUPport is a 2.1 million project from January 2023 until December 2027. A joint effort led by BIOM with Public Institution PrirodaOtok Krk Agricultural CooperativeHEP – Operator distribucijskog sustava d.o.o., the energy distribution company, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and the Croatian Nature Protection Directorate (Ministry of Economy) as associate partners.  

LIFE SUPport project partners funders logo

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