Working to save vultures in the Balearics

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Over on the Balearic Islands the Sociedad Española de Ornitología (SEO/BirdLife) along with the Regional Government of Balearic Islands are finalizing their raptor conservation action plan within the project ARES (Actuacions de Recuperació d’Espècies Silvestres). Our Vulture Programmes Manager Jovan Andevski went along to an Action Planning meeting to contribute towards the preparation of the Raptor Multi-species Action Plan for the Balearic Islands. 

A Raptor Multi-species action plan

The Cinereous and Griffon vultures are two of the many resident and migratory raptors found on the Balearic Islands such as the recently successfully reintroduced Benelli’s, Eagle Eleonora’s Falcon and the Booted Eagle and for the first time a multi-species action plan is being proposed to conserve and protect all of the island’s raptors from the common threats they face. 

This Action Planning meeting gathered representatives from the Regional Government, Nature conservation organizations, hunters, farmers, electricity companies, airport to evaluate the threats and suggest actions to tackle these issues. 

During the course of the one-day meeting on Tuesday 30 October it was clear that all the stakeholders were engaged in the plans to conserve the raptor species on the islands, positively surprised by the commitment from the hunters, farmers,  the electricity companies and the airport company AENA to the actions required to tackle the threats. 

The preparation and the implementation of this kind of species action plans is directly contributing into the implementation of the Vulture Multi-species Action and the Cinereous Vulture Flyway Action Plan

Vultures in the Balearic Islands

Today there are three vulture species found on the Balearic Islands, in Mallorca, the cinereous and Griffon vultures and the special resident population of Egyptian vulture in Menorca.  All three species have populations that are increasing, and showing a positive upward trend.

Cinereous vultures in Mallorca  

Cinereous vultures nesting in Mallorca
Cinereous vultures nesting in Mallorca

Back in 1980s the cinereous Vulture had been reduced to just 19 birds and one breeding pair on Mallorca. In 1986 spurred into action by the risk of losing the species completely from the island a group of dedicated conservationists formed the Black Vulture Conservation Foundation supported and led by the Regional Government of Balearic Islands to help and protect the tiny population on Mallorca by launching the first Cinereous Vulture restocking programme in Europe (by release of about 35 birds coming from the captive breeding and mainland Spain), but also to tackling the threats such as illegal wildlife poisoning and nesting disturbance. 

Thanks to their effort  is estimated that Mallorca holds about 200 birds and 35 breeding pairs mostly found in a mountainous strip of coast in northern Mallorca, along the Sierra Tramuntana. The 2017 breeding season was another record-breaking year with 26 chicks fledging from nests

Griffon vultures on Mallorca 

Griffon vulture spotted near Puig Roig, Mallorca
Griffon vulture spotted near Puig Roig, Mallorca

The Griffon vulture was never a breeding species in Mallorca, just an occasional visitor. That was until 2008 when strong westerly winds carried around 100 birds from mainland Spain and rather than leaving they stay, recolonising Mallorca and breeding with around nine to 13 birds fledging each year since 2014. 

Egyptian vultures in Menorca

Egyptian vulture spotted near Monte Toro, Menorca
Egyptian vulture spotted near Monte Toro, Menorca

The last population of Egyptian vultures in the Balearics Islands are currently found in Menorca with around 40 breeding pairs. What is distinctive about this population like another found on mainland Spain is the birds are sedantary, not carrying out an annual migration like the other European populations. 

Vulture conservation in the press

The day before this meeting Jovan gave a talk about the vulture conservation in Europe at event organized by GOB (Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa) and SEO-Virot and also helped promote the brilliant work of vulture conservationists on Mallorca by speaking to Balearic media IB3 giving an interview for the regional newspaper and the radio. 

Press interview Download The vultures return to the old world, Ara Balears, 03/11/18. ARA_20181103-Bal Ciència v1-Balears.pdf Adobe Acrobat Document 2.9 MB Download

Here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation we believe working together with partners across Europe is essential to achieve our mission of restoring healthy populations of vultures to the continent and it was great to see the progress and work of partners on the Balearic Islands. Once the plan is published we’ll share it here on the website.

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