Of the main threats posed to vultures in Europe – illegal poisoning, collision with cables, persecution, disturbance of nest sites -, electrocution is often overlooked, but kills hundreds of birds every year.
This Egyptian vulture, which died in Iran earlier this year, is just one of these many casualties of electrocution caused by electricity pylons. This threat was highlighted in the recent Vulture Multi species Action Plan (Vulture MsAP) and the species action plans approved by the EU this week for the bearded vulture and the cinereous vulture.
The threat of electrocution occurs when vultures perch on medium-tension electricity pylons, the design of which make it easier for the bird to touch both the cables and the pylon at the same time. In more arid desert areas, where there are fewer perching options like cliffs and trees, or during stormy weather, when it is difficult for vultures to fly properly, vultures will perch on pylons increasing the risk of death by electrocution.
Thanks to GPS telemetry we are also understanding the risk posed to vultures by electrocution. Many of the projects that we are involved in – LIFE RUPIS, LIFE GYPCONNECT, LIFE Re. Vultures – are working to mitigate this threat by burying electrical lines, changing the pole type, or insulating the line, a cheap and effective method that protects vultures from the risk.
The Iran´s Bird and Powerlines Committee (IBPLC) has been working tirelessly to raise this issue and has worked with power companies, protected area managers and officials to reduce the risk of electrocution in some areas. With relatively few means, they have managed to insulate already some dozens of poles in the desert zone of Meyghan Wetland (Arak), and in the Rasvand Wildlife_Refuge (Shazand, Markazi province).