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Vultures at risk from changes to regulations in Spain’s Asturias region

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The regional government of the Asturias region of Spain recently passed a resolution that allows the disposals of dead livestock in the wild too close to wind turbines, increasing the risk to their safety

Managing dead livestock

In the wake of the BSE (mad-cow disease) crisis that spread across Europe in 2002 the European Union passed legislation that banned the leaving of dead livestock out in the open. This move was to keep the infection prion that causes BSE from spreading to the environment or to other animals. The legislation required farmers to abandon their traditional carcass management techniques (dumping them in traditional muladares) and have their dead animals collected and incinerated by licensed firms.

It’s estimated that the 4,000 cow carcasses which would have otherwise been left lying in meadows in the Asturias region have been instead disposed of annually in animal carcass disposal facilities. As a result, scavengers including vultures have to make do with 210 metric tons less food each year.

In the years since the legislation was passed there have been relaxation of the rules and regulations with many countries passing their own legislation relating to the sanitary disposal of animal carcasses. Recent research from the LIFE Rupis project demonstrated the effects of these rules on the feeding behaviour of Egyptian vultures. https://www.4vultures.org/vultures-foraging-eu-veterinary-policies-portugal-spain/

Changes to legislation by the Government of the Principality of Asturias

In Spain animal carcasses and animal by-products not destined for human consumption were allowed to be left for scavengers, under a Royal Decree in 2011 – this was great news for the populations of vultures that had suffered as a result of the earlier legislation. As a result, most vulture species have been increasing in Iberia, as food resources became available. Some carcasses and animal by-products can now be deposited in supplementary feeding areas, or even be left abandoned in some of the areas with vultures. There are some regulations, though, and these usually recommend a distance of 1,000 meters to power lines and 4,000 meters to wind turbines to ensure the safety of the birds.

However, in a resolution passed in June by Government of the Principality of Asturias, this safe distance has been reduced to just 200m in the region, endangering any vultures who will feed on the carcasses, despite the advice from wildlife organisation SEO/Birdlife.

“The electrocution or collision of birds in power lines or wind turbines cause thousands of deaths. Allowing large concentrations of necrophagous raptors to 200 meters of wind turbines can be a very high risk factor that causes the mortality of birds” says Nicolás López from SEO/BirdLife

We agree with SEO / BirdLife and regret that the Spanish Government’s recommendation of safe distance has not been taken into account ultimately putting vultures at unnecessary risk.

Vultures at risk from changes to regulations in Spain’s Asturias region

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