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From Italy to Mali: Captive-bred and released Egyptian Vultures reach sub-Saharan Africa

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Clint and Birba before their release (c) CERM/ Egyptian Vulture LIFE

Do you remember the Egyptian Vultures Birba and Clint? These young birds hatched at CERM Endangered Raptors Centre (Italy) in May 2020 and were released by CERM and ISPRA Istituto Superiore per la Protezione e la Ricerca Ambientale in Basilicata on 15 August as part of the LIFE Egyptian Vulture project. Ahead of their release, the vultures were also equipped with tags provided by us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), allowing the team to track and monitor their movements. Now, thanks to the GPS tags, we have some exciting updates about their migration journey — as it turns out, both birds successfully reached Mali! They did not travel together, but they have followed an almost identical route that brought them together to probably the main sub-Saharan area where they will spend the next couple of years.

The migration journeys of Clint and Birba

Clint made an early, extraordinarily and expeditious migration. After departing from the release area on 26 August 2020, he travelled 3.600 km in just 19 days and arrived in Mali on 15 September! Birba started her southbound trip on 6 September 2020 and reached Mali on 23 September after carrying out a 27-day journey and covering a 3.300 km distance.

These young birds chose a straight path towards Africa during their first migratory journey. From mainland Italy, they crossed the Strait of Messina and arrived in Sicily where they spent some days. They then travelled to the island of Pantelleria, spent one night, and the following day crossed over the sea again, reaching Tunisia and later on crossing Algeria with almost overlapping routes.

Then, once the birds started crossing the Sahara, their GPS signals stopped for a long time, in Birba’s case for almost a month. Thankfully, after some time, the birds resurfaced! The project team and colleagues received new GPS signals that revealed Birba and Clint are safe and they arrived at their destination in Mali. 

News from other released Egyptian Vultures in Italy

Unfortunately, there is no definite news from Fabio, the third Egyptian Vulture released in 2020 who begun his migration journey. The last GPS signal received placed him in a position between Sicily and Tunisia, which suggests that he likely did not complete the crossing safely, and has drowned instead. 

In addition to Birba and Clint, in sub-Saharan Africa between Mauritania, Mali and Niger, other captive-bred and released Egyptian Vultures from Italy currently reside. These are Jane and Leonardo (released under the LIFE Egyptian Vulture in 2019) and other Egyptian Vultures freed by CERM in previous years (Sara, Tobias and Apollo).

We look forward to monitoring the movements of these Egyptian Vultures and hope that they will safely return to Italy when it is time for them to breed! 

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