This year the VCF and its partners will release at least 13 young bearded vultures into the wild in Europe – a boost to the populations of this species in our continent, that have been benefiting from the work of the VCF – the species is now fully restored and is growing exponentially in the Alps and started to breed again in Andalusia after an absence of 30+ years.
The VCF coordinates the bearded vulture captive breeding network, under a mandate from EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria). Results of this year´s breeding season were somehow lower than expected – a total of 33 young were produced, but 8 chicks died – an unusually high number. We do have to keep in captivity a number of the young, to address sex-ratio imbalances and also to secure some blood lines in the captive stock – the first 4 chicks of new founder couples are always kept in captivity, so in the end only 13 young – maybe one more depending on the sex, will be released in the on-going reintroduction projects (Alps, Andalusia and Maestrazgo). Unfortunately, this year we had to cancel planned releases in the Grands Causses and in Corsica (restocking) due to the shortage of birds.
The first three birds have been released last weekend in the Baronnies (westernmost French pre-Alps), as part of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project (funded by the EU LIFE budget and co-funded by the MAVA foundation).
The next bird to be released will be Andalusia – tomorrow (14th May) a young bearded vulture will be presented to the public at 10 am in the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria, in Cazorla, and will be released later that day in the Natural park of Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas – see invitation above.
This chick was reared in the bearded vulture specialized captive-breeding centre in Guadalentin (Andalusia, also managed by the Junta de Andalucia). On the 22nd May one more chick – this one coming from the Austrian specialized captive-breeding centre, will be released in the same place, while on the 25th May one chick from the Green Balkans center in Bulgaria and one from Andalusia will be released in a different site in Castril.
All birds will be tagged and monitored closely by the Junta de Andalucia and the VCF. The aim of all these projects is to create a bearded vulture European meta-population, with gene flow between the existing autochthonous populations in Europe (in the Pyrenees, Corsica, and Crete) with reintroduced populations and eventually with existing populations in North Africa and in Asia.
In Andalucía the reintroduction project started in 2006, following extinction in the mid-80s. Then first breeding in the wild started in 2015, and there are already two breeding pairs (that are breeding successfully this year) and two more territorial pairs formed. This release is another contribution to re-establish this population.