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Black Vulture reintroduction project in France register more successes – first breeding in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region!

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The Black Vulture is the only vulture species that went extinct in France. A first reintroduction project started at the Grands Causses in 1992, and lasted until 2004 – this was very successful and led to a breeding population totaling 20 pairs as of today.

In 2004-2005 two other release sites were selected in the Southern Alps – at the Massif of Baronnies, with releases since 2004, and the Gorges du Verdon, with first birds released in 2005. In the table below you can the number of birds released so far in the Southern Alps.

 

 

                                                   Baronnies Verdon
Nb of birds released by way of the hacking method        10       9
Nb of birds released by making use of cages        26     14
Total of birds released        36     23
Nb of birds still to be released        14     27

In most of these sites, the reintroduction of the griffon vulture has preceded, and paved the way, for the reintroduction of the black vulture –showing again that the former species can be a proxy for the reintroduction of other more sensitive ones. In Verdon, for example 91 griffons vultures were released at Rougon from 1999 to 2005. A natural colony was established in 2002 and since then 222 juvenile griffon have flown off the cliffs of the Grand Canyon. In 2013, the griffon colony includes 300 individuals, hundreds of pairs and vital area of around 600,000 hectares.

Quick success in Baronnies and Verdon.

In Baronnies the first black vulture breeding attempt took place in 2009, followed by successful reproduction in 2010. This year, seven pairs attempted to breed, and there are about 30 birds present all year round.

In Verdon, results were equally fast – the first two black vultures were released only in August 2005, but by 2011 a pair had started to exhibit breeding behavior (repeated copulations and nest building).They then moved to Baronnies where they also tried to breed (without success). This year finally a pair has successfully bred in the Gorges du Verdon – the birds were already incubating by end of February, and the chick hatched between 12 and 18 April – it was ringed on the 19th June. Last month, on the 3rd September, the first young black vulture to fledge in Haute Provence in the last 150 years has finally left the nest. It was named Phenix, to mark this extraordinary comeback.

A crazy idea – but it worked!

These results show that if you reduce the threat factors and manage the habitat adequately, endangered wildlife responds well and rapidly. This wonderful story – the return of an iconic species to France – started more than 20 years ago, when some pioneers had the vision, the ambition and the tenacity to start these projects. Counting with a growing support of many volunteers, institutions, associations and private partners, the project grew into a huge success story. The reintroduction projects are managed by LPO PACA & the association “Vautours en Baronnies”, in collaboration with the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the Black Vulture Conservation Foundation, «Vautours en Haute-Provence», la LPO Mission Rapaces, European zoos, rehabilitation centers in Spain and the Spanish ministry of agriculture.

Reintroductions sites in France
Black vulture nest in Baronnies, Southern Alps, France (photo C. Tessier)

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