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Adult bearded vulture rescued and re-released back to the wild in the French Alps

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On the 5th of June, a female adult bearded vulture – named Veronika, and a well-known member of the Sixt breeding pair in the French Alps, was found on a bridge in a nearby village (Morzine) and eventually recovered by firemen. After a visit to a veterinarian for an X ray and blood tests, she was transferred on 6th June to the wildlife rehabilitation centre Tichodrome, near Grenoble, always under the watchful eye of ASTERS, the French NGO leading the bearded vulture conservation efforts in the French Alps, including the LIFE project GYPHELP, in which the VCF also participates.

Veronika was released into the wild in 1999 in the Swiss National Park within the Alpine reintroduction project, after hatching in captivity in La Garenne zoo (Switzerland).  After a few years rambling through the Alps Veronika finally settle down near Chamonix-Mont Blanc. During the breeding season 2006-07 she produced her first clutch and a chick hatched. Unfortunately, this chick didn’t fledge and it was necessary to wait two breeding seasons more before a first chick was produced. Since then 7 chicks fledged from this pair.

Veronika did not show any clinical abnormalities, no bruises or fractures, nor any ammunition pellets, and in captivity she moved, drank and ate normally, and certainly nothing broken. She had only a symmetrical wound on the shoulders but nothing alarming. The results of the blood analysis were negative for lead (18.4 micrograms / l) – a common threat to bearded vultures in the Alps. More detailed toxicological analyzes are still underway.

Given the good condition of the bird, the staff in Tichodrome, DREAL Aquitaine (French governmental agency with competences on the bearded vulture national species action plan) and ASTERS decided to release the bird.

Veronika was released on the 19th June in the Passy Nature Reserve, equipped with a GPS tag provided by the VCF (with generous funding from the MAVA Foundation). After flying over the group, she quickly climbed up and left towards her former territory. It will be interesting to see what happens next, as in the meantime the male of the Sixt pair was already observed with another adult bird! Very soon we will put a map with her movements in our website.

The VCF would like to thank all the staff from ASTERS, Le Tichodrome, but also other recovery centers that helped in the rehabilitation and release of Veronika. Although bearded vultures are increasing in the Alps, every single breeding adult is precious for the recovery of the population, and once again it was great to see such a selfless and objective international cooperation being established to return Veronika to where it belongs, the Alpine skies.

Photos: ASTERS, Le Tichodrome

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