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Griffon vulture population in Israel reaches a new high

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Griffon Vultures (c) Nello Petitio

A record number of Griffon Vultures in Israel

Good news for Griffon Vultures! The Israel Nature and Parks Authority reported that 206 Griffon Vultures were counted in Israel, which is a record number in recent years.

Griffon Vultures status in Israel

Sadly Israel’s Griffon Vulture population is in trouble. In the past 50 years, the numbers of Griffon Vultures in Israel were steadily declining. Until the late 1950’s hundreds of pairs of Griffon Vultures bred all over the country from the extreme north to the Eilat Mountains. In the early 2000’s only around 120 pairs bred and today less than 60 pairs remain. Today the majestic Griffon Vulture is critically endangered (CR) in Israel and other places around the eastern Mediterranean. This drastic decrease is a result of severe threats like wildlife poisoning, usually caused by farmers to protect their livestock from predators. The latest mass poisoning occurred in May 2019, killing eight vultures and nearly wiping out their population in Golan Heights. The worst instance of poisoning took place in 1998 when about 40 vultures were found dead after eating the carcasses of poisoned cattle or wild animals. 

Monitoring Griffon Vultures in Israel

In 2012, the Griffon Vulture population reached an unprecedented and dangerous low. In the winter (February) and summer (June) counts, 110 and 146 Griffon Vultures were counted respectively. This year, there seems to be a significant increase in the numbers! Monitoring efforts recorded 184 vultures in the winter count and 206 in the summer count. There is also a positive trend in the breeding results. In 2012, the number of nests decreased to 33, and this year, 48 nests were recorded. Furthermore, out of the 206 individuals counted in June 2020, some were identified — 22 were natives coming from the captive breeding nucleus and 10 were vultures rescued in Spain, which were transported and released in Israel after being rehabilitated. 

Griffon Vulture conservation in Israel

The increase in the population of Griffon Vultures was possible thanks to a lot of conservation work and investment. Since 1996, the Spreading Wings project is leading the efforts to protect and conserve vultures in Israel, in a collaboration between the Israel Electric Corporation, the Israel Nature & Parks Authority and the Society for the Protection of Nature. The project tackles threats such as electrocution and collision, and it also carries out vital research and educational activities. Another important conservation measure is the establishment of a breeding project, which releases vultures and raptors into nature in Israel. The vulture population is still small and vulnerable, and in danger of extinction, but thanks to these efforts, the population is gradually recovering. Since this is a species with a relatively low breeding potential (one chick per year, starting in the fifth year of life), this is a slow process, but with commitment and targeted conservation actions, the species can make a comeback.

Source: Israel Nature and Parks Authority

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