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Three captive-bred Bearded Vultures released into the wild in France kicking off the 2019 Bearded Vulture Release Season

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Earlier this week three captive-bred Bearded Vultures were released into the wild in the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses in the south of the Massif Central, France.

Europe, Lausa and Monna

The three birds, one male and two females, were presented to the public on Monday 6 May as part of a ceremony that has become a popular fixture in the local calendar since the reintroductions to the Massif Central started back in 2010.

Named Europe, Lausa and Monna, the birds are aged 97, 91 and 87 days old and were born in the Spanish Bearded Vulture specialised captive breeding centres Vallcalent (in Catalonia) and Guadalentín (in Andalucia).

As well as crowd of well wishers the presentation was presided over by Alain Bougrain-Dubourg, President of the Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) , the lead partner in our LIFE GYPCONNECT project.

Our very own David Izquierdo, Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Assistant, and Raphaël Néouze, chairman of the Vulture Conservation Foundation Advisory Board, presented the birds to the project on behalf of the Bearded Vulture European Endangered Species Programme, the captive breeding network of zoos, breeding centres and private collection the Vulture Conservation Foundation manages.

After the presentation the birds were taken to the hacking nests where they will be monitored by the local LPO team and fed (without any human contact) until they fledge the nest and take their first flights to freedom.

Since 2010 15 birds have been released in the Massif Central as part of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project to reintroduce the species to the Massif Central with the aim of connecting the reintroduced populations in the Alps with the population in the Pyrenees.

As part of the LIFE GYPCONNECT project we have three more planned releases this year: two birds will be released in Parc naturel régional du Vercors on Saturday 18 May and a second release in Parc naturel régional des Grands Causses of two more birds on Monday 3 June. Finally two birds will be released in the Parc Naturel Régional des Baronnies Provençales betweeen the 25 and 28 May.

Poison is a real and present threat

As part of the releases for LIFE GYPCONNECT, the team have released Poison: a threat to vultures, a new short film calling on everyone to remain vigilant against the use of illegal poisoned baits in the natural environment and highlighting the threat to vultures.

Over 2018 several deaths of vultures in Europe have been attributed to poisoning including those of Bearded, Cinereous and Griffon vultures. Durzon, a young captive-bred Bearded Vulture released in 2017 in the Grands Causses as part of the LIFE GYPCONNECT was found poisoned in the spring of 2018, which to the partial cancellation of releases in the Parc Naturel Regional des Grand Causes last year for fear of the safety of the young birds.

Following these high profile poisoning of vultures in 2018, our partners in the LIFE GYPCONNECT project the LPO created this film and released it to coincide with the peak period of poisoning incidents. The short film aims to raise awareness of the impacts the illegal use of poisoned baits on vultures and on the natural environment.

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