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Cinereous Vulture illegally poisoned in Bulgaria less than one month following her reintroduction into the wild

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Since her release in mid-May 2021, the Cinereous Vulture ‘Blacky Skrill’ undertook vast wandering, visiting five countries, only to come back to Bulgaria and be killed! What killed the vulture is a common yet illegal method of exterminating animals — poisoning. Not to mention that this practice poses a severe threat to nature, wildlife and also public health.

Reintroducing Spanish Cinereous Vultures to Bulgaria

Thanks to the healthy Spanish Cinereous Vulture population, most of the birds released as part of the Vultures Back to LIFE reintroduction project in Bulgaria come from Spain, and Blacky Skrill was no different. After her rescue and rehabilitation, the Junta de Extremadura donated Blacky Skrill alongside several more Cinereous Vultures to the Bulgarian project, and with the support of AMUS and the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), the birds safely reached Bulgaria. These Cinereous Vultures are released into the wild as part of a long-term programme to restore the species in the country, and this year, after more than three decades since extinction, Bulgaria welcomed their first wild-hatched Cinereous Vulture chick. 

Unfortunately, together with the long-anticipated optimistic news, the team recently witnessed another criminal act of poison use. The Green Balkans and the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF) equip GPS transmitters on Cinereous Vulture ahead of their release to help find vultures in need of help and also to locate and remove poison baits, which can cause a significant blow to entire colonies and damage years of diligent conservation work as seen in the serious poisoning incident in Kresna Gorge back in 2017, which resulted in many Griffon Vultures deaths. The team became aware of the latest incident in early June after receiving alarming data.

Reintroduced bird illegally killed by poison baits

After her release on 12 May, Blacky Skrill undertook vast wanders, visiting Turkey, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine, and Greece in less than one month. When she returned to Bulgaria on 3 June, the Cinereous Vulture met a tragic end.  

On the morning of 4 June, the GPS transmitter signalled that since 18:00 the day before, the bird’s temperature had lowered and the аccelerometer of the transmitter registered unusual data, which indicated that the bird may be no longer alive. After this worrying information, FWFF retraced the steps of Blacky Skrill and visited an area near Dobrinishte, the latest location where the vulture was certainly alive. There, the team found a horse carcass laced with poison bait, collected samples from the horse for toxicology analysis and removed the poison from nature to prevent further casualties. So far, they only identified one more victim, a raven. At the same time, another FWFF team retrieved the GPS transmitter in a remote location at the Mesta River, 4 km east of the poisoned carcass. It seems the preparator threw away the transmitter in an attempt to hide the committed crime. The police already questioned suspects and launched an investigation, and an official signal was sent to the prosecutor and other institutions responsible. Although the vulture’s carcass is still missing, the circumstances make it clear that it was illegally killed.

The Cinereous Vulture is a protected species, and killing individuals with poison baits is a serious crime, subject to the Penalty Code of the Republic of Bulgaria.

We hope the investigation identifies a perpetrator and brings them to justice!

Vultures Back to LIFE

Led by the wildlife conservation charity Green Balkans in collaboration with the Fund for Wild Flora and FaunaVulture Conservation FoundationJunta de Extremadura and Euronatur, theVultures Back to LIFE project 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 Spanish wildlife rehabilitation centres 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 nature.

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