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  • Massive poisoning incident(s) in Kresna George, Bulgaria, deals a blow to the recovering Balkan griffon vulture population

Massive poisoning incident(s) in Kresna George, Bulgaria, deals a blow to the recovering Balkan griffon vulture population

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Within the last two weeks a total of 8 griffon vultures, and several other animals (wolves, foxes and other raptors), have been found dead in Kresna Gorge (Bulgaria), illegally poisoned. The griffon vultures found dead constitute the bulk of the local breeding population, so their offspring have also probably perished. Unfortunately, the number of poisoned griffons may be even higher, and may surpass 15-20, as before the first dead birds were found there were about 50 griffons in the area, while now there are only 5 to 10. A few days ago, one poisoned wolf was found, which indicates that the poisoning is continuing and there is still danger for the remaining griffon vultures!

Poisoning is the main threat to vultures everywhere, but unfortunately it still is relatively common in areas where livestock breeders use illegal poison substances to combat predators (manly wolf).

The team of the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna (FWFF), with support from Green Balkans, the Bulgarian Society for the protection of Birds (BSPB), and the birds of Prey Protection Society of Bulgaria (BPPS) – practically all bird conservation organizations in the country – are doing whatever they can to mobilize the authorities to act, and have deployed volunteers to search the area and remove the poisoned animals or poisoned baits from the field. In this search, the dog that was specially trained for detection of poison baits or poisoned animals in the field within the LIFE project Re-Vultures is also being used.

The relevant authorities have already collected samples and confirmed it was a poisoning incident with the use of carbamates. Samples for further detailed toxicological analyses will be sent to labs abroad, in order to determine the exact poison substance used, within the framework of the Life project Vultures Back To Life.

The griffon vulture went extinct in Kresna 60 years ago due to the intensive use of poison, mainly strychnine to combat predators. After 15 years of enormous vulture conservation efforts implemented mainly by FWFF, the species returned to the area. Last year there were two new established breeding pairs. This year there were expectation that the number of breeding pairs would increase.

We very much hope that Bulgarian authorities will act on this case and will do all possible to identify the responsible person and bring him to justice. Such an incident can jeopardize years of effort, and put in doubt the considerable investment that the EU is doing on several conservation projects in the country to restore vulture populations.

The VCF is very much active in the efforts to mitigate poison activities in Bulgaria, and is organising a national seminar on this issue next month in Sofia – this has now become even more important and relevant.

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