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New bearded vulture captive-breeding centre established in Armenia, with support from the VCF and Pro-Bartgeier

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The Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets in Armenia (FPWC) has built this summer a double bearded vulture aviary, partially funded by the Swiss Foundation for Bearded Vultures and a charitable foundation in the Principality of Liechtenstein, and the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF).

The new center is located next to the Bear Rescue centre, at 1250m a.s.l., within the 20,000 hectares Caucasus Wildlife Refuge (CWR) – a private protected area, which is managed by the FPWC. The objective of this small bearded vulture breeding unit in Armenia is to give the best housing conditions for the captive bearded vulture breeding pair currently at Yerevan Zoo, which is originally wild-born, and thus ensure optimal breeding conditions for these very valuable birds. This project is important for the VCF as it will strengthen the Bearded Vulture European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) and will help to include genetic lineages of the Caucasian population in the breeding programme.

The FPWC is working for wildlife protection, environmental education, and sustainable development, respecting human beings, natural wealth, and cultural heritage. The privately protected Caucasus Wildlife Refuge is an important habitat for such unique and rare species as the Caucasian leopards (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica), the world’s largest leopard subspecies in size, and two subspecies of brown bears (Ursus arctos), both in severe risk of extinction in the country. Over the last decade the FPWC is promoting the increase of the populations of the leopard’s natural prey — Indian porcupines, wild boars and Bezoar goats, which incidentally are also included in the Bearded vulture diet when they die.

The CWR also has at least one of the 10 breeding pairs of bearded vulture in Armenia. Since assuming the management of the CWR, the FPWC is monitoring the bearded vultures ensuring the conservation of viable populations in the wild.

In consistence with its mission the VCF is assisting the FPWC in all matters related with vultures, especially on bearded vulture captive breeding and husbandry, since 2014. In 2015 an agreement was signed between both institutions aiming to integrate the FPWC, as an Associate Member of EAZA (the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), in the bearded Vulture EEP. In autumn 2017 the VCF representative visited the CWR, to verify if any amelioration had to be done in the newly built aviaries.

The VCF manages the captive-breeding stock of bearded vultures (EEP) for reintroduction, under a remit from EAZA. This network is at the base of the successful reintroduction projects ongoing in the Alps (where last season we had a record-breaking year, with 47 pairs), Andalusia (now with two breeding pairs already in the wild), Grands Causses (included in the LIFE project GypConnect) and Corsica. Further in 2018, depending on the breeding results, a new project will start in Spain: the Maestrazgo- Els Port reintroduction project, located between Andalusia and the Pyrenees. The final goal of the VCF is to create an European bearded vulture meta-population re-establishing the gene flow between North Africa and Asia through the European autochthonous and reintroduced populations with an ultimate aim to ensure the in-situ conservation of the species

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