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Mortality event causes a huge blow to the Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus

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Mortality event causes a huge blow to the Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus_necrospy 3 birds_© Silvio A. Rusmigo
The carcasses of Ikaros and the two chicks during the necropsy © Silvio A. Rusmigo

The status of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus seems even bleaker due to a recent mortality event. A couple of weeks ago, at least three Griffon Vultures suddenly died, including one adult bird and two chicks, causing a huge blow to the conservation of the species in the country. This tragic mortality confirms how vulnerable the Griffon Vulture population is in Cyprus and the urgent need to combat the threats the species faces.

At least three Cypriot Griffon Vultures dead

One of the victims was Ikaros, an adult Griffon Vulture around 4-5 years old with the ring code ‘CCR.’ Ikaros carried a GPS transmitter on his back since November 2019, which allowed close monitoring of his movements and behaviour. Sadly, his life was cut short. Following communication with the Department of Forests, members of the Game and Fauna Service (GFS) retrieved Ikaros’ carcass on Tuesday, 3 May, in the area of ​​Agios Ioannis in the Paphos District. The following day, after an on-site search, GFS officers found that two chicks were dead in their nests, and there was no sign of their parents in the vicinity. 

Taking urgent and swift action

From the moment the LIFE with Vultures project team became alert of the trobling situation, the Anti-Poison Dog Units of GFS began patrolling the areas that the GPS-tagged vultures had visited in the days before the incident. Meanwhile, in collaboration with the British Bases Administration, the project team have been closely monitoring Episkopi Cliffs to confirm vulture activity in the area as well as the condition of the nests there. At the same time, GPS-tagged vultures are being closely monitored both in the field and remotely. 

Investigating what happened

For the purposes of determining the cause of death of the three birds, which is probably linked, the carcasses were sent for necropsy and the necessary toxicological analyses. The competent authorities are currently investigating the incidents to determine the cause of death.

If this is the result of malicious action, then all necessary actions will be taken to identify the culprits and zero tolerance will be shown. Deterrent penalties will be sought to prevent further losses in the future. Indications point to poisoning being the most probable scenario, which will be confirmed by the toxicological analyses. The use of poison baits is illegal and punishable by law with up to three years in prison and/ or 20,000 euro fine in Cyprus. If substantial damage is caused to a protected species, such as the Griffon Vulture, the law foresees punishment of up to ten years in prison and/ or a 500.000 euro fine. 

A huge blow to the Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus 

The vulture census, which took place on 11 May, reinforces this horrible scenario, with a 50% reduction in the population compared to last year. More specifically, based on last year’s census, the vulture population in Cyprus in 2021 numbered 15-20 birds, while the census only recorded eight Griffon Vultures. This is a massive blow to the Cypriot population of the Griffon Vulture, with the loss of breeding birds. It is also a significant setback concerning the efforts currently undertaken as part of the LIFE with Vultures project to conserve the species in Cyprus. 

If you know anything about this serious incident, please contact the Game and Fauna Service immediately.

The LIFE with Vultures project

LwV LIFE with Vultures logo

LIFE with Vultures is a targeted conservation project for the protection of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus. In this four-year endeavour (2019-2023), BirdLife Cyprus, the Game and Fauna ServiceTerra Cypria – The Cyprus Conservation Foundation and the Vulture Conservation Foundation have joined forces to tackle the main threats facing the Griffon Vulture and prevent Cyprus’ most threatened bird of prey from going extinct. The project has a 1,375,861 Euro budget and is co-funded (60%) by the EU’s LIFE Programme

LwV Life With Vultures funder partner logos

Source: BirdLife Cyprus

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