Aschka and Kalandraka released in the Swiss Alps

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Aschka and Kalandraka released in the Swiss Alps
Photo:Markus P. Staehli – Stiftung Pro Bartgeier
Aschka and Kalandraka released in the Swiss Alps 1
Photo: Markus P. Staehli – Stiftung Pro Bartgeier

It was still winter when Kalandraka – a young bearded vulture – hatched on the 13th February in the Spanish breeding station at Guadalentin. This weekend, it was winter again when Kalandraka – and Aschka- were carried up the alpine slopes in Calfeisental (St. Gallen, central Switzerland) by an enthusiastic team from the Goldau Zoo – snow and wind swept the mountains, even if it was late May.

Aschka and Kalandraka are the latest two bearded vultures released in the Swiss Alps – part of the international alpine bearded vulture reintroduction project, in which the VCF plays an important part.

Bearded vultureswent extinct in the Alpine chain in the beginning of the 20th century. Towards the end of the same century, it was deemed that the threats that had driven it to extinction (direct persecution, poison and lack of food) had been minimized, so an ambitious reintroduction project started in 1986, using birds from the more than 30 Zoos and captive breeding centers coordinated by the VCF under the Bearded Vulture endangered species programme (EEPŞ).

Since then, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and all its partners in 4 countries (Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France) have released more than 185 birds across the Alps – and as a consequence, there are now more than 20 breeding pairs, and 30 territories, dispersed across the chain.

Kalandraka comes from a rare genetic lineage, originating in Spain. In the 1990s her father’s beak was so badly injured that it was not possible for him to survive in the wild. He was integrated into the international Bearded Vulture Breeding Programme and has been breeding successfully in the Guadalentín captive breeding centre ever since.

Aschka was born at the Owl and Bird of Prey Station Haringsee, the leading bearded vulture captive breeding facility in the world, and also belongs to a rare genetic lineage, with ancestors from Crete. With the introduction of Aschka and Kalandraka, the wild Alpine population will receive “fresh blood” and a boost in their genetic diversity.

The birds were reintroduced to the wild last Saturday (25th May). Each weighing about 5 Kg., they were carried through an unseasonal snow storm up the steep slopes of the Calfeisental Valley by a number of vulture enthusiasts.

Soon after release, Aschka (left below in the photo) and Kalandraka had an immediate scuffle – good news, as it indicates they are strong birds! The young vultures will spend the next few days eating, taking care of their growing plumage and sleeping, before finally trying their first flight – please see the latest on their development

The VCF would like to thank the Stiftung Pro Bartgeier for all their work and contribution to this project.

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