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Bearded Vulture Mojo killed today in the Netherlands by a train

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Mojo, the first ever wild-hatched Bearded Vulture observed in the Netherlands, was found dead today near a train line in Oostvaardersplassen nature reserve, just east of Amsterdam.

Bearded Vulture Carcass of Bearded Vulture killed in the Netherlands by train 3
The Bearded Vulture carcass of Mojo was swiftly retrieved by our president for examination © Vulture Conservation Foundation/ Hans Pohlmann

Mojo was a wild-hatched female Bearded Vulture from the Alps that hatched in late February 2022 in the Chambeyron-Ubayette territory, near Saint-Paul-sur-Ubaye, in the Mercantour National Park in southeast France. This is a well-established breeding territory in the growing Alpine Bearded Vulture population that has registered successful breeding over the years. The female from this pair is Rimani, herself a wild-hatched bird from a nest in the central Italian Alps in Italy (Zebru pair). Rimani was for some years paired up with male Stephan, but it seems that in 2022 this male went to the westernmost Alps (Vercors) and was substituted by another male, probably Cassos, which is a male hatched in 2012 in the nearby territory of the Source de l’Ubaye. We know all this because the Bearded Vulture population in the Alps is one of the most closely monitored ever around the world, including a thorough genetic analysis done through the collection of feathers under wild nests, in a comprehensive programme of monitoring and research associated with the Bearded Vulture reintroduction programme in the Alps. This monitoring is conducted by the International Bearded Vulture Monitoring Network (IBM), coordinated by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), with the participation of many organisations, including the Mercantour National Park.

In Spring last year Mojo was equipped while still in the nest with a GPS tag in a collaboration between the VCF and the Mercantour National Park and has been followed ever since. Mojo spent its first year moving across the Alps, as first-year Bearded Vultures do. Starting in the Mercantour, Mojo visited the Parc National des Écrins, the Parc National de la Vanoise, and also the Mont-Blanc massif. It toured the central Alps all the way to central Switzerland between November 2022 and February this year, but in April returned south to Écrins. Then, suddenly, it veered west, and by the 19th of April, it crossed the Rhone Valley near Valence. It reached central France near Bourges, but then turned east towards Dijon, and from there north all the way to the Netherlands, where it had arrived a couple of days ago.

Mojo is not the first Bearded Vulture to be seen in the Netherlands, but it is the first from a confirmed wild-hatched pair. It immediately attracted a lot of interest: on the first day in the Netherlands, it was seen by at least 75 Dutch birders, and today close to 200 birders had concentrated around its location to try to see it.

Sadly, Mojo met its death today when it was hit by a train. The VCF president, Hans Pohlmann, a Dutch national, has gone to the scene and collected the carcass so that a proper post-mortem necropsy can be done in due course.

In May 2021, another Bearded Vulture, captive-bred Angèle, had already died in the Netherlands, as a result of a collision against a wind turbine. More recently, another captive-bred Bearded Vulture, Eglazine, spent some time in the Netherlands for a second consecutive year, attracting much attention.

When they are young, Bearded Vultures often endure long-distance flights, exploring different habitats while roaming for food. They usually fly north from the Alps, and in the last few years, several have been seen in northern France, Germany, the Netherlands, or even in faraway places like Denmark and Scandinavia.

In the next few days, we will be giving more details about Mojo’s cause of death. Please stay tuned. If you want to know more about Bearded Vultures, you can check out our dedicated webpage.

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