Griffon Vulture Kupala is free again! The vulture was first rescued and released in Croatia in 2018, but he still needed help. Kupala was spotted in Germany looking exhausted and was rescued once more. Now, Kupala is healthy, free and already travelled far.
Kupala’s first rescue
The Beli Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures saved Kupala from the sea near Plavnik Island on 24 June 2018. Kupala spent three months in recovery and was released into the wild together with five other vultures on 17 September 2018. He spent some time on Cres Island and then headed north, unlike the other five Griffon Vultures that headed south.
The route Kupala chose was long and tiring. He flew through Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany. But, the inexperience of the young bird almost killed him, as he could not find food.
It is not unusual for young Griffon Vultures to fly from Croatia to the north of Europe in their quest to join Balkan griffon colonies as it’s easier to find food in groups. But Kupala did not find any colonies in Germany since there are no Griffon Vultures there. So when he arrived at the city of Dresden in Germany, he was completely disoriented and exhausted. They found him on 22 October 2018 where he was captured and examined.
Kupala’s second rescue
Because of his condition, Kupala spent seven months at the Dresden Recovery Centre. He was at a large aviary, with enough food that brought him back to a healthy weight, reaching 9kg. We here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation together with Dr Hans Frey helped transfer Kupala to the Haringsee Center, and then L. Gerlinde Hillebrand helped transport him to Salzburg Zoo.
After months in rehabilitation centres, Kupala was finally healthy and ready to be released back into nature. And when the weather was right, the vulture was released near the zoological garden where there is a local colony of Griffon Vultures and a feeding place.
At first, he stayed near the release area and on the rocks of Hellbrunner and then flew to Grossglockner, the popular spring and summer destination for migratory vultures.
We hope Kupala will survive in the wild without needing to be rescued again.