Several dozen people witnessed yesterday a milestone in the efforts to save one of the last western European autochthonous populations of bearded vultures: the release of two young bearded vultures from the VCF-coordinated captive breeding network, through the hacking method in Corsica. The release took place at the Niolo Valley (municipality of Lozzi), which is located on the south of Monte Cinto, at the border of the mouflon distribution.
The older of the nestlings is a female coming from the bearded vulture captive breeding center Guadalentín (managed by the Junta de Andalucía). Her parents reproduced last year for the first time. Both were experienced breeding birds. This breeding season the female laid again a double clutch and from both eggs a chick hatched. As the male always showed nervousness towards the adoption of nestlings, this year it was decided to try natural hatching in the nest. The whole hatching and rearing process could be monitored thanks to remote video cameras and no incidents occurred. The younger chick is a male from the Richard Faust breeding centre (Austria, co-managed by EGS and the VCF). Also this chick hatched in the nest, and was reared by its parents until was sent to Corsica.
Both chicks travelled by car until Corsica, crossing the Mediterranean by ferry, because now flight companies increasingly bar the transfer of birds in their planes.
The event was led by the President of the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse, the mayor of Lozzi, and representatives from the French government (DREAL), the Fondation Albert II du Monaco (which partly funds this project), and the VCF. Many kids from the local Calacuccia School, which had named the young bearded vultures as Cimatella (female) and Muntagnolu (male) were there too.
The restocking of the population with captive-bred individuals is one of the actions included in the Conservation Strategy for the Bearded Vulture in Corsica. The goal of this action is to reinforce the wild population introducing news genes and consequently to increase the genetic variability of this island population. A genetic study done by the VCF, with more than 90 samples collected from the wild population, showed that this isolated population is suffering from low genetic variability, the lowest of all European populations.
Now we have to wait almost a month before Cimatella and Muntagnolu try their first flights. They will be constantly monitored by staff from the PNRC and the VCF, and will also be tagged closer to the fledgling date. We wish them a great life in their new island home and we hope to see them in a near future flying high the Corsican skies!