As the recently approved Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (MsAP) – a blueprint of role world conservation across Eurasia -, electrocution is an important threat to vultures (and other species) worldwide.
This is indeed the case also in the alpine areas! The Italian Eastern Alps host a population of about 150 Griffon Vultures in winter and 300 in summer, and our work in the last few years has suggested that electrocution is a significant mortality factor here. In fact, at least 10 fatal accidents with Griffon Vultures occurred in a radius of about 20 km around the vulture supplementary feeding point located in the Nature Reserve Lago del Cornino (UD) in the past 20 years. In this area there are many electric lines of low-medium voltage, which are dangerous for raptors and owls.
The threat of electrocution is often underestimated because dead birds are difficult to spot. Most of them are found near streets or settlements, but also thanks to GPS telemetry – this month for example we detected a fatal case because the bird had been tagged this summer with a GPS tag in Lago del Cornino as part of a collaborative project with Hohe Tauern National Park (see photo) – you can see the movements of these birds at our home page at https://www.4vultures.org/our-work/monitoring/griffon-vulture-online-maps/
Most of the electric lines are located at low altitude, and are a threat to the vultures especially during bad weather. When it rains vultures can’t fly properly, and for this reason they tend to stay longer at low altitude and perch on trees or electric power lines. Since most of the accidents (n=6) happened within a radius of about 2 km around the supplementary feeding point, we will focus in this area for future mitigating measures. Fortunately, local authorities and the company that owns the electricity transport network (ENEL) are now willing to find technical solutions; These exist and are relatively cheap to apply – we are hoping that the meetings that will happen soon will result in a win-win collaboration – and a reduction of mortality of griffon vultures. Like this we will also be contributing to the implementation of the Vulture MsAP!
Photos: Fulvio Genero/VCF
Prepared by Fulvio Genero (VCF advisory board)