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Breeding black vultures in captivity for conservation – 2015 report

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The Eurasian black vulture European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), a coordinated network of zoos and animal parks aiming to reproduce in captivity this endangered species and eventually release young into the wild, in which the VCF plays an important role, has released its latest update. There are now 184 birds in 44 EEP partners across the continent, from Spain to Kazakhstan, including 47 pairs. Last year 30 pairs laid an egg, and 12 chicks hatched, of which 10 fledged and 9 survived – an improvement on previous years.

There is also a new dating aviary, to add to the ones already existing in Planckendael zoo (Belgium) and Prague zoo (Czech Republic) – a new one was built in Rhenen zoo in the Netherlands. In these aviaries young unattached vultures are allowed to socialize and eventually form pairs naturally.

Breeding Eurasian black vultures in captivity is particularly difficult, as there are complex behavioral and genetic factors at play and the species is very sensitive to stress. The captive population of Eurasian black vultures is demographically old, and there is also a sex bias (more mature females than males). The ex-situ population of Eurasian black vulture needs to increase the number of successful breeding pairs, improve the percentage of fertilized eggs, and the survival rate of nestlings to be able to fulfill its role – only to keep the EEP population at equal level, on average 10 eggs should hatch per year, far above the current figures in the last ten years. However the last 2 years this goal has been achieved! 

In the past zoos have already provided chicks to reintroduction projects: 19 birds to Grands Causses reintroduction (France), 13 to the reintroduction site at Verdon (France), 1 to the project in Catalonia (Spain), 8 to Baronnies (in France), and 9 to Mallorca (Spain). Since 2 years the released birds are equipped with a satellite transmitter. Last year 2 chicks were given for release and finally 1 chick, born in Pairi Daiza zoo, was released and its movements can be followed here.

The Eurasian black vulture EEP is run by Planckendael Zoo (Belgium) and coordinated by Marleen Huyghe marleen.huyghe@kmda.org).

Photos: Antwerp Zoo/VCF

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