A survey carried out in 2001 revealed just 190 adult Cinereous Vultures across Spain’s Andalucía region. However, thanks to the efforts of organisations at the regional autonomous government, the Junta de Andalucía, the 2018 population survey confirmed the continuing population growth of the species, with 354 breeding pairs across the region and around 504 adult birds.
A growing population
Officials from the Junta de Andalucía’s Ministry of Environment and Territorial Planning carried out the annual survey of the regions Cinereous Vulture population and found that the population has been growing by a rate of five percent each year since the surveys began in 1999.
The 2018 survey revealed 354 breeding pairs of the region’s 406 territorial pairs. Across the region the breeding populations are found around Sierra Norte I, with 115-140 pairs in total accounting for 34 percent of all pairs in the region. Followed by 110-124 pairs in Sierra Pelada 78-84 in Sierra de Andújar, 50-55 in Sierra de Hornachuelos, two in Sierra Norte II and a single pair in Sierra de Adamuz.
The 2018 survey also recorded, for the second consecutive year, a record number of young birds fledging from the nest, around 210 or around 59 percent of all successful breeding.
Like other vultures in the region they face several threats, importantly illegal wildlife poisoning but also destruction of forest and competition with Griffon Vultures for nests in Sierra de Hornachuelos. However, overall the work of organisations across the region and the Junta de Andalucía are helping the Cinereous Vulture recover in Andalucía.
Efforts to fight illegal poisoning in Andalucía
The continued growth of the population of the Cinereous Vulture population has been attributed to the region’s approach to tackling illegal wildlife poisoning. The use of poisoned baits is a widespread practice throughout Spain and Europe, despite being banned since 1983, to control large predators of game and livestock species. However, since 2004 the Junta de Andalucía have been leading the world with a strategy to fight the issue, the Andalusian Strategy against Poison, which has included investing in anti-poisoning dog units, investment in law enforcement, Agentes de Medio Ambiente, that secure the enforcement on the ground and developed pioneering work on toxicology on the regional reference lab to enhance the forensic investigative techniques. This approach has seen a 77 percent drop in the reported cases of poisoning since the approval of the region’s Plan for Recovery and Conservation of Necrophagous Birds in 2012.
Cinereous Vultures in Spain
Europe’s largest vulture had an estimated population in 2017 of 2,548 breeding pairs across Spain. Cinereous Vultures favour two habitats in Spain, the Mediterranean forests of pine forests in the high mountains and the sub-Alpine habitat of Spain’s central mountain ranges. Breeding colonies are found in Extremadura, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Andalusia, Madrid, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. According to the Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO) the population of Cinereous Vultures in Spain accounts for 96 percent of the European population of the species. Working with autonomous regional governments the Spanish population of Cinereous Vultures have helped restock and reintroduce the species to other parts of Europe such as in Bulgaria and France.