All four European vultures soar the skies of the Grands Causses and Cévennes in France thanks to reintroduction efforts. The presence of the Bearded Vulture is still low in the region, and there is a long way to go until the species is re-established in the area. Reintroduction efforts of the species only started in 2012 and continue today with the LIFE GypConnect project. The LIFE GypConnect project released four more Bearded Vultures to Jonte Gorges in the Grands Causses this June! This is the eight release of Bearded Vultures to the Grands Causses since 2012.
Releasing four Bearded Vultures to the Grands Causses
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its challenges, the Vulture Conservation Foundation’s Captive Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network (EEP) produced 25 Bearded Vulture chicks are alive and well, of which at least 20 will be released. For this release, one bird arrived from the Green Balkans Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Center in Stara Zagora (Bulgaria), two from the Tierpark Zoo in Berlin (Germany) and one from the Parco Natura Viva Zoo (Italy).
Ahead of the release, the team equipped the birds with GPS tags and bleached their feathers for monitoring and identification purposes.
On Friday 12 and Saturday 13 June, the LIFE GypConnect project released the four young Bearded Vultures named Dolomie, Eglazine, Fario and Ohprys to the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park, in the area ‘Gorges du Trévezel’, Aveyron.
We release Bearded Vultures using the ‘hacking method’, which entails placing young birds at an artificial nest in suitable habitat to acclimatize to the natural environment before they take their first flights. The hacking method is more ore less like the “natural” way of fledging. The role of the parents at that time is the protection against predators, food supply and social contacts. This method substitutes these functions to a big part. The construction of the platform does not allow terrestrial predators to reach the birds, which prevents any possible injuries, the animal keepers provide food without any human contact, and socialization is possible since two or more nestlings are usually released together. Furthermore, we release the captive-bred birds at an average age of 90 days old, when the birds are able to eat alone, are strong enough to defend themselves against other birds of prey and are young enough to recognize the release site as their rearing place. This way, the nestlings are able to associate the place where they are released with the area of hatching so that when they reach breeding age, which is around 8-10 years old, they select these places to breed. When Bearded Vultures are young, they tend to travel vast distances and explore new regions, but once they become sexually mature, they tend to select areas close to where they hatched to breed.
The LIFE GypConnect project team is monitoring the nestlings to see how they are adapting to ther new and will continue to keep an eye on them after they fledge.
Stay tuned with Bearded Vulture releases
This breeding season, a total of 25 Bearded Vulture chicks are alive and healthy within the Vulture Conservation Foundation’s (VCF) Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Network (EEP) that breed the species in captivity for conservation purposes. The VCF and its partners will release at least 20 young Bearded Vultures into the wild across six regions in Spain, France and the Alps to boost the local populations of the species, with the first releases of the season taking place in Andalusia, Spain, on 9 May 2020. Some of the birds that hatched will remain in captivity to address the sex-ratio imbalances and also to secure important bloodlines in the captive stock. More releases will take place in July.
Led by the League pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), the LIFE GYPCONNECT project aims to establish a breeding population of Bearded Vultures in the Massif Central and Department of the Drôme. Releasing captive-bred Bearded Vultures into the wild at sites such as the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses, Parc Naturel Régional des Baronnies Provençales and Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors will create a core population that will connect the two populations of the species in the Alps and Pyrenees. To facilitate movements between the new population and the Alpine and Pyrenean populations the LIFE GYPCONNECT team is creating a network of supplementary feeding stations, and tackling threats such as poisoning, and collision and electrocution with the electricity infrastructure.