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Bearded vulture captive breeding season is over – so birds are now being transferred across Europe

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During the last days 6 bearded vultures have been transferred to different zoos inside the European Endangered species Programme (EEP) – the captive breeding network managed by the VCF. With these transfers, 3 new pairs could be established, and a fourth pair has been transferred because the bearded vulture captive breeding center managed by Asters (France) will rebuild the aviaries and will close temporarily.

The bearded vulture captive breeding program started in 1978 and is now composed by 40+ institutions: private and municipal Zoos, private collections, NGO and Governmental wildlife recovery centers- This captive breeding network is at the base of our on going European reintroduction/restocking projects (Alpine, Andalusia, Grands Causses and Corsica).

The VCF has been working over the years to increase the breeding success of the captive population – there has been no importation of wild birds into the captive stock for a long time now, and we have been able to secure a minimum number of years of chicks per year for releasing in the reintroduction projects.  Furthermore the captive breeding programme also maintains an ex situ genetic reserve from European autochthonous population (Pyrenees and Corsica).

Using chicks from captive breeding, reintroduced in the wild through hacking, we have been able to re-establishing wild populations capable to survive and reproduce, independently of human intervention. Our reintroduction projects are now aiming to create an European meta-population, with gene flow between the existing isolated autochthonous populations in Europe (in the Pyrenees, Corsica, and Crete) with the reintroduced ones, and eventually with populations in North Africa and in Asia.

To achieve all these, the VCF manages the captive stock to increase its genetic variability. Therefore the number of breeding pairs must be maintained, and this can only be achieved by building continuously new pairs to replace potential losses or breeding failures. When drafting the pairing scheme genetic and location are the most important criteria considered.

In the last days the first bird transfers started before next breeding season starts. One adult male coming from Académie de Fauconnerie du Puy du Fou (France) has been transferred to Zoo La Garenne (Switzerland) with the hope to establish a new breeding pair with its breeding female. Le Parc des Oiseaux (France), a new EEP partner since 2015, received a young male from Centro de Cría Guadalentín (Spain) for its adult female. Amnéville zoo (France), who became a bearded vulture EEP Partner in 2016, and has constructed a brand new aviary (see photos), has received a young couple. The male is from the Green Balkans breeding center (Bulgaria) and the female from Guadalentín. And Académie de Fauconnerie du Puy du Fou has received the pair from Asters as has been mentioned above.

We hope that all these new pairs will start in a near future to reproduce and contribute to the in-situ conservation of this species

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