Summer has finished not so long ago, yet in the bearded vulture captive breeding network, the preparations for the new breeding seasons are peaking – this is because bearded vultures are one of the earliest breeders in Europe – their timing perfectly adapted to have chicks in early spring, when many of the mountain herbivores on which they feed (when they die) have their first births – and birth complications! Bearded vultures in captivity also repair or build their nests in November-December, and lay their eggs in January, incubating them through the coldest winter months.
The Vulture Conservation Foundation is the coordinator of the bearded vulture European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), a collaborative and coordinated network of over 30 zoos, wildlife parks, specialized captive breeding centers and private collections, that aims to breed the species in captivity for conservation purposes. Young resulting from captive breeding are then released in our reintroduction projects in the Alps, Grands Causses (France) and Andalucia – this year a total of 16 young could be released in 5 sites.
In zoos and captive breeding stations across Europe, our staff, zoo curators and staff from partner organizations are busy preparing the new breeding season. In Haringsee (Austria) – the biggest specialized captive breeding station in the network, co-managed by the VCF and the EGS, two new aviaries are being built (see photos). Recently, the young born in the La Garenne Zoo (Switzerland) has been transported to Austria (see photos), on its way to the final destination in Italy – some of the captive-bred young are kept in the network to offset losses and keep genetic lines.
Slowly and surely, we are getting ready for a new breeding season. We hope the birds – and the weather – will collaborate, as ultimately the success of the reintroduction projects depends on this.