Cinereous Vulture Conservation – 2019 Overview

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Cinereous Vulture (c) Bruno Berthemy

One of the world’s largest raptors, the Cinereous Vulture is making a comeback in Europe. The population in Spain, Portugal, and France is on the rise, and it is being reintroduced in Bulgaria. We here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) contribute to different projects to help with the conservation of the species. Here is the breakdown of this year’s Cinereous Vulture conservation highlights.

Vultures Back To LIFE

Led by the wildlife conservation charity Green Balkans, with activities also implemented by the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna, and bringing together partners from Bulgaria, Spain, Germany, and us here at the VCF, Vultures Back to LIFE aims to reintroduce the cinereous or Eurasian black vulture to Bulgaria. The team will transfer and release around 60 birds, some from captive-breeding, but mostly coming from wildlife rehabilitation centres in Extremadura (Spain) into the wild in Bulgaria as well as creating supplementary feeding stations and improving populations of wild herbivores, improving the nesting conditions and creating artificial nest sites and tackling some of the major threats to vultures in the country such as insulating electricity pylons and illegal use of poison in the nature.

This was yet another fantastic year for the project. Wetransported of ten birds from Spain to Bulgaria, and are under preparation for the next 15 birds that will be transported in 2020. The project releasesd 16 birds this year in Bulgaria – four captive-bred, and 12 wild-origin (coming from rehabilitation centres in Extremadura, Spain).

Captive Breeding

The EEP for the Eurasian Black Vulture is coordinated by the studbook keeper and coordinator Marleen Huyghe (also VCF’s Advisory Board member) at Planckendael Animal Park, Mechelen/Belgium, a division of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp. Besides holding and updating the actual register as a studbook keeper, as a coordinator, she acts as a matchmaker and makes recommendations for new pairs, transfer of individuals between zoos, husbandry, captive breeding and reintroduction candidates. 

This year the Cinereous Vulture EEP bred ten chicks! Four of them are included in the Vultures Back To LIFE reintroduction project in Bulgaria and six were kept as captive stock.

The VCF also contributed to a workshop in the EEP to update guidelines and helped update the hacking release protocol.

Cinereous Vulture reintroduction in France

The Cinereous Vulture reintroduction project in France is a success story with the species now firmly re-established after going extinct in the country. Running since 2004, the reintroduction project in southern France moves closer to reaching the target of releasing 50 birds with securing four more birds for the reintroduction, which will be transported in France soon for their eventual release into the wild.


Here at the VCF, we monitor vultures using GPS tracking technology, which is a vital tool for conservationists. With GPS trackers, we can track the everyday position and movement of birds anywhere in the world. This data helps understand migration patterns, behaviour and foraging ranges, and helps identify threats. Essentially, trackers can help indicate a specific bird’s health and assist conservationists in carrying out widespread actions that mitigate the threats, safeguard flight paths and support the comeback of these species. 

This year, the VCF was involved in equipping 24 Cinereous Vultures with GPS tags! Twelve within the Vultures Back to LIFE project, two in Mallorca, four in Portugal as part of LIFE Rupis and six in Verdon, France. You can track their movements yourself by visiting our online public maps.

Learn about the 2019 conservation highlights of the other European vulture species:

Thank you for your continuous support. You can donate to the Vulture Conservation Foundation and help us continue our conservation work, protecting Europe’s vultures.

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