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Cinereous vulture found dead in the Rhodope Mountains

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A Cinereous vulture was found dead in the Greek part of the Rhodopes earlier this month by the WWF Greece’s Poison Control Team. But what caused its death?

Stopped signal

The LIFE Re-Vultures team became concerned when one of the Cinereous vultures fitted with a GPS transmitter had been sending signals from the same position for two days – they feared the worst. To find the bird the anti-poison dog unit was dispatched and followed the signal to the Greek part of the Eastern Rhodopes, beyond the borders of Dadia National Park. Unfortunately their worries were justified – the anti-poison dog unit discovered the bird dead

The bird was a young one and had been tagged by staff from Dadia National Park at the end of 2017. 

Tagging cinereous vultures in December 2017
Tagging cinereous vultures in December 2017

The exact cause of death is yet to be determined as further samples are being sent to the lab to exclude other causes such as poisoning, but the likely cause of death is collision with a power line. 

“The vulture most likely tried to fly out of the ridge near the electric poles and hit the wire in the attempt to raise the height,” experts from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds commented.

The overlooked threat

Collision with power lines is sadly a frequent occurrence when vultures and other birds navigate or fly near lines, with the estimates for death toll in the hundreds of thousands globally each year. In most cases, such accidents occur when the wires themselves remain on a slope, forest or other area, and the birds are unable to distinguish the wire against the background of the natural vegetation. 

Bird Markers are used to prevent such incidents. These are phosphorescent and sun-reflecting plates that hang along the wires and thus make them visible to the birds flying over them.

Working together to protecting vultures

Insulating cables on electricity power lines
Insulating cables on electricity power lines

The LIFE Re-Vultures project, working on the Bulgarian part of the Rhodopes, has identified over 120 power lines dangerous for vultures and is minimizing the threat on those. Meanwhile the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project, working on both the Greek and Bulgarian areas of the Rhodope Mountains, is also insulating power lines that are identified as most dangerous. 

Our Vultures Back to LIFE project that recently reintroduced three cinereous vultures to Bulgaria for the first time since the species went extinct in the country is also working to insulate poles and make some of the most dangerous power lines safe. 

The death of this cinereous vulture is particularly worrying as the Balkans is home to just one breeding colony of 35 pairs in Dadia National Park and follows the tragic poisoning of two other birds back in January 2018.  

Together these projects are working to make the Balkans a safer place for vultures, supporting their recovery in a region that has seen a dramatic decline over the course of the last 50 years.

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