Marvellous news from Sardinia! The Egyptian Vulture pair that settled in Porte Conte Regional Park in the spring of 2019 bred successfully again this year. The information was shared by the LIFE Safe for Vulture partners, which have been monitoring the pair since its first breeding attempt. Although the current LIFE project aims to ensure the long-term survival of the fragile Griffon Vulture guild in Sardinia, the conservation actions put into practice as part of the project are granting conditions for other scavenger species to flourish as well.
Egyptian Vulture hatched in the wild in Sardinia
The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a rare visitor to Sardinia, with no historical breeding records. The conservation efforts to restore the fragile Griffon Vulture population triggered the two adults to settle in 2019 and, against all odds, successfully breed and rear offspring. Remarkably, the success story continued into 2020, with the same pair repeating the breeding feat, fledging a chick. This trend is becoming a norm, as the pair produced a chick again this spring!
The juvenile was spotted by the LIFE Safe for Vultures monitoring team, a conservation project to strengthen the fragile Griffon Vulture population that builds on the encouraging results of the previous Life Under Griffon Wings project. Globally classified as ‘Endangered’ by the IUCN Red List, the Egyptian Vulture is considered ‘Critically Endangered’ in Italy, with only 8-12 nesting pairs in the country.
“The good practices started in the north-western quadrant of the island with LIFE Under Griffon Wings, now extended to other areas of the island thanks to the current project, are producing outstanding results and inducing positive effects also on other bird species.”Life Safe for Vultures
Vulture conservation in Sardinia
Sardinia was once home to three vulture species. Unfortunately, direct persecution and poisoning incidents led to the extinction of the Cinereous Vultures (Aegypius monachus) and Bearded Vultures (Gypaetus barbatus). The Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) was the only surviving species, but the autochthonous population reached concerning levels in 2013. Well distributed all over Sardinia up to the late 1940s with a population of 800-1200 individuals, a decade ago, there were only 130 individuals left on the island.
Thanks to the LIFE Under Griffon Wings project, the local population was reinforced with the release of 60 Griffon Vultures translocated from Spain. With the current LIFE Safe for Vultures project, 12 Griffon Vultures were released in May this year, and another 12 are currently in the acclimatisation aviary for a soft release. As reported in a recently published article, this release strategy proved to be the most efficient regarding survival rates and home range stability.
Conservation measures benefiting Egyptian and Griffon Vultures alike
Besides the release of Griffon Vultures, project partners implemented conservation actions to increase food availability and mitigate the main threats affecting scavenger birds. The project team is working to expand the network of supplementary feeding stations, create several anti-poison dog units to tackle wildlife poisoning, and reduce the threat of collision and electrocution with energy infrastructures. Human disturbance around nesting sites is also being tackled, and several awareness-raising activities are targeted at visitors and the local population.
These actions resulted in the presence of the two Egyptian Vultures and the three territorial Griffon Vulture pairs that had not been recorded in several years, a glimmer of hope for vulture conservation in Sardinia! Soon, the family will migrate to Africa, well they will spend the winter months. Will the pair return to Sardinia and breed again next spring?
The LIFE Safe for Vultures project
LIFE Safe for Vultures is co-financed by the EU’s LIFE Programme to restore the vulture guild in Sardinia. The University of Sassari leads the project in collaboration with Agenzia Regionale Forestas, Sardegna Corpo Forestale, E-Distribuzione and the Vulture Conservation Foundation. LIFE Safe for Vultures builds on the work of the successful LIFE Under Griffon Wings, with the ultimate objective for Griffon Vultures to regain their historic ranges and distribution areas from the central-eastern part of Sardinia to the south and promote the long-term survival of the species on the island. An additional feeding station will be established south of the island, and 40 additional Griffon Vultures will be translocated and released.