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Good news from Armenia – Bearded Vultures in Yerevan Zoo are breeding!

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Yerevan Zoo in Armenia has always been known for its presentation of South-Caucasian wildlife, and this includes vultures species – Egyptian, Bearded, Cinereous and Griffon vultures. All these species still occur in Armenia’s mountainous wilderness but – due to habitat destruction and poaching – the numbers of wild vultures are generally decreasing.

Last November staff from the zoo prepared a natural cave for a pair of Bearded Vultures in the zoo´s collection. Later, in December, the birds started to prepare a nest with provided materials, such as sheep wool, branches etc. And on January 25th the zoo’s curator Manuk Manukyan discovered they had laid a clutch of two eggs. Currently the pair is breeding and the zoo staff is doing everything to keep disturbance to a minimum.

Yerevan Zoo has 3 Beaded Vultures, two males and one female. The origins of the birds are not clear most probably they were caught in the wild by local villagers and sold to the zoo. This has been a common practice in Armenia until 2011 when Ruben Khachatryan, the founder of the local environmental organization “Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets” (FPWC), started his assignment as Yerevan Zoo Director.

New guidelines, complying with international standards, were then introduced, and a master plan for the 75 years old zoo was developed. The on-going transformation process aims to create a zoo that can serve Armenia and the entire South-Caucasus region as a “Regional Centre for Environmental Education and Biodiversity Conservation”.

The new focus of the zoo is on breeding threatened species and – wherever possible – reintroduction of local species into the wild. The transformation process is strongly supported by the ARTIS Royal Zoo Amsterdam. In 2012 Yerevan Zoo became a candidate member of the European Association for Zoo and Aquaria (EAZA).

The VCF has also been supporting Yerevan Zoo with information and tecnichal expertise on bearded vultres, and we hope that this zoo becomes a member of EAZA, and jojns the Bearded Vulture EEP. Opportunities for collaboration are very promising, as the FPWC maintains a 2000 Ha protected area in the Caucasian mountains that offers a perfect habitat not only for Bearded but for Egyptian, Cinereous and Griffon vultures as well.  Linking FPWC’s “Caucasus Wildlife Refuge” directly with Yerevan Zoo programmes offers plenty of opportunities, but for now all of us are impatiently awaiting to welcome a young Bearded vulture chick!

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