A poacher kills the last black vulture in Alinyà, Spain

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Photos of Trasgu before (up) and after (down) the incident © Boumort-Alinyà Working Team
Photos of Trasgu before (up) and after (down) the incident © Boumort-Alinyà Working Team

In November 2016, the last Black vulture settled in the region of Alinyà (Spanish Pyrenees) flew over his territory for the last time. His name was Trasgu, a 6-years-old male that was transferred from a rehabilitation center to the Pyrenees in 2013 and released there as part of the project to reintroduce the species in the Pyrenees (Alinyà and Boumort). That month he was found dead at Alinyà, and the necropsy done at the Wildlife Centre of Vallcalent confirmed the worst fears: Trasgu had been shot dead, in the same area that has seen two other black vultures disappear for the same reason (Orri, that was killed and Alinyà that had to be taken into captivity). The news were kept in secret so that an investigation could start, and were only made public recently – even in the heart of the EU, where species conservation is well understood and supported, the reckless actions of a rogue individual destroyed the efforts and investment of years of work and effort.        

Direct persecution and shooting was one of the main reasons that lead to the extinction of black vultures in many areas of Spain in the last century. Although there has been a positive trend in the last decades and shooting raptors is now much rarer, the incident with Trasgu show that we cannot completely dismiss it – even in Spain, even on this day and age!

The black vulture reintroduction project started in 2006 in Alinyà and Boumort – a collaboration between the MAGRAMA (Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment), the Foundation Catalunya–La Pedrera, the NGOs TRENCA and GREFA and the staff of the Reserves of Boumort and Muntanya d’Alinyà, and aimed to establish a new population in order to create a corridor for the gene-flow among already-existing populations in the South West of the Iberian Peninsula and the reintroduced populations in France (Cevennes and Baronnies).  The sites already have the other European vultures (griffon, Egyptian and bearded vultures) breeding. The results have been quite promising in Boumort, which saw the first chick fledge in the wild in 2010 – the first-time black vultures bred the Pyrenees in over 100 years. Boumort currently has around 12 pairs, and last year 6 chicks hatched in the area. However, in Alinyà, things have not been so successful and so far, no pair has established in the area. Trasgu was the last territorial individual in the site, and his untimely death probably killed the goal of seeing the species return to the area.

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