Following a world first in 2013 – the breeding in captivity of the Canary islands subspecies of the Egyptian vulture – locally called Guirres, this year again a pair fledged a young at the Centro de Fauna Silvestre de Tarifa, managed by the Canary Islands Autonomous Government.
The pair, both individuals severely wounded and unreleasable, laid their first egg on the 29th April, followed by other two. After 42 days of artificial incubation a chick hatched and is now developing well.
This pair is formed by an adult male found wounded in 2003, and a female found in 2001. In 2007 they were transferred to Tarifa recovery centre, and in 2010 the first nest building and matting attempts could be observed.
The pair is housed in an adapted aviary, following the advice from the VCF staff. In 2012 the female laid for the first time: The first egg was found broken and the second was immediately removed and artificially incubated, but the embryo died just a few days before hatching.
It is well known that eggs which are incubated artificially from the day they are laid have a lower hatching rate, with the embryos often dying during the first phase of incubation or during hatching. To achieve higher hatching rates it is advisable to incubate eggs naturally for at least one third of the incubation period. Soon after the 2012 breeding season, the staff from Recovery Centre Tarifa linked up with the VCF staff to discuss captive breeding techniques.
In 2013 again the 1st egg was broken, but the second could be saved and artificially incubated, applying the artificial incubation technique developed for the Bearded Vulture (the egg exposed to outside temperature 4 times per day and during 5 minutes). From this 2nd egg the first-ever Guirre chick bred in captivity hatched. The chick was successful raised, initially by the staff and afterwards by its father. The chick was named Tamarin and could be finally released back to nature in Fuerteventura.
Unfortunately in 2014 all three embryos died because of a technical incubator failure. But this year things worked out well: all three eggs were removed immediately after being laid and artificially incubated. After 42 days a chick hatched, but it had its navel completely open, with the danger of infection, and so it had to be treated with antibiotic. Following some expectant days, in which the staff from Tarifa was in permanent contact with VCF experts, the little Guirre finally started to put on weight. It is now growing next to its parents. The second egg was infertile or aborted during the first days of incubation, but we all are expecting a second chick from the third egg, which is developing well.
The Guirre is an endangered, sedentary subspecies of Egyptian vulture, with a small population of 270 individuals occurring presently only in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Over the last few years the subspecies has been slowly recovering, which gives hope that someday it may be restored on the other Canary Islands where it went extinct. It may be that captive breeding could play a role there.
The VCF would like to congratulate the staff from the Tarifa centre for this major success. Well done! (All videos and photos Cabildo de Gran Canaria/VCF)