This summer, Antwerp Zoo (Belgium) has enriched its exhibition with the addition of an Eurasian Black Vulture chick, that grew from a handful of fluffy down into a healthy and strong youngster in just a few months. The chick, a female, has finally left Antwerp Zoo at an age of 122 days to spend her next years among other young vultures in the giant aviary of Planckendael Animal Park (Mechelen/Belgium). In this aviary, young unattached vultures are allowed to socialize and eventually form pairs naturally.
Antwerp Zoo’s chick is the first hatchling at this location since the early 1980s and is one of 7 to survive the breeding season in 2013, among the 54 institutions that are participating in the Eurasian black vulture Endangered species Programme (EEP), a coordinated network of zoos, animal parks and rehabilitation centers aiming to reproduce in captivity this endangered species and eventually release young into the wild, in which the VCF plays an important role. The black vulture EEP is run by Planckendael Zoo (Belgium) and coordinated by Marleen Huyghe (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Breeding Eurasian black vultures in captivity is particularly difficulty, as there are complex behavioral and genetic factors at play and the species is very sensitive to stress. The captive population of Eurasian black vultures registered in the EEP (200 birds) is demographically very old, and there is a significant sex bias (more females than males) for some ages. The ex-situ population of Eurasian black vulture needs to increase the number of successful breeding pairs, improve the percentage of fertilized eggs, and the survival rate of nestlings to be able to fulfil its role – only to keep the EEP population at equal level, on average 8 eggs should hatch per year, far above the current figures in the last ten years. However this year this goal has been achieved!
In the past zoos have already provided chicks to reintroduction projects (19 birds to Grands Causses reintroduction (France), 10 to the reintroduction site at Verdon (France), 1 to the project in Catalunia (Spain), 8 to Baronnies (in France), and 9 to Mallorca (Spain). In 2012 the EEP has temporarily stopped providing chicks for reintroduction projects for the above mentioned reasons, so all chicks born in 2012 and 2013 will be kept in the EEP program to strengthen it – including the impressive young born this year at Antwerp.