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Seven young Griffon Vultures of different backgrounds successfully freed into Croatia’s wild

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Releasing the vultures © Tomislav Bandera Anić/ Beli Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures

After spending some time in a rescue centre, a total of seven young captive-bred and wild-hatched Griffon Vultures successfully take their flights into freedom in Croatia! Four of these individuals will also play an important role in tackling illegal wildlife poisoning in the Balkans.

Helping and releasing Griffon Vultures

Last year, Griffon Vultures hatched in the Rescue Centre for Wildlife in Ruščica, close to Slavonski Brod. Called Đuro and Barbara, these vultures were descendants of two Kvarner Griffon Vultures, Pepin and Brancina, who couldn’t return to the wild because of their injuries. Thanks to the work of the association, their chicks will get the chance to experience a life of freedom.

In addition, during summertime last year, five Griffon Vulture nestlings, Wuhan, Vranac, Marin, Angela and Taras, faced a challenge — to leave their nest, but they were unsuccessful and needed human care after their failed first flights. The Griffon Vultures of Kvarner islands nest on cliffs above the sea, which makes leaving the nest for the first time difficult, leading to several young birds falling in the sea. If the locals notice such an unlucky bird on time, they get it out and bring it to the Beli Visitor Centre and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures

The two captive-bred and five wild-hatched Griffon Vultures met in Beli centre where they spent the last six months, getting ready to take their first big flights together.

“The Griffon Vulture is a symbol of Cres and the wealth of its biodiversity. Knowing that these birds have prevailed only here, on Kvarner, we understand that it is our responsibility to keep them safe and to systematically take care of all flora and fauna of our blue-green county,“ states Zlatko Komadina, head of Primorsko-Goranska county.

Monitoring Griffon Vultures to tackle poisoning

Thanks to the technology of satellite tracking, Griffon Vultures can help conservationists in the fight against illegal wildlife poisoning.

“Today we equipped four Griffon Vultures with GPS tags. All tagged birds are added to the database of vultures and their movements in the Balkans, helping us in establishing a system of quick response to possible discoveries of wildlife poisoning. There are already 40 birds tracked in Bulgaria and Greece, and the Croatian Griffon Vultures will significantly contribute to the system’s success. This operation is a part of the project BalkanDetox LIFE.” said Nera Fabijanić of Association Biom, coordinator of the project in Croatia.

The importance of establishing a system that keeps track of all vultures in the Balkans is evident just by looking at last year’s incident of poisoning.

“A tracked Griffon Vulture from Cres left for Greece, where he fell victim to a poison bait. Before realizing what had happened and communicating it to the Greek partners, three more birds were lost to the same bait. Consistent sharing of vulture movements on an international level is essential to quick discoveries and removals of poison in nature.” added Hristo Peshev of FWFF, coordinator of the project in Bulgaria.

The main aim of the project BalkanDetox LIFE is to fight illegal poisoning of wildlife across the Balkans. One way to combat this practice is by using satellite tracking of the vultures. Upon noticing a bird hasn’t moved in some time, we can conclude something went wrong and quickly go check the situation in the field. Furthermore, if we discover the vulture has been poisoned, an investigation can launch. Using a reliable analysis of the bird’s previous movements through GPS technology, we can locate the poison bait. To conduct effective surveillance of the movements of griffon vultures, there must be at least five tagged birds in each colony. Croatia will be adding all tracked birds to the system. 

“Poisoning is one of the biggest threats to our Griffon Vultures, and in most cases, we find traces of carbofuran. Just one instance of poisoning can wipe out large parts of our colonies. We must remember the case from 2004, where 17 vultures were killed on Rab because of one poison bait. We will gladly contribute to the development of innovative methods of combatting poisoning to save our colony on Cres from extinction,” concluded Marko Modrić, the chief Ranger from Public Institution “Priroda”.

BalkanDetox LIFE

The ‘BalkanDetox LIFE‘ project aims to strengthen national capacities to fight wildlife poisoning and raise awareness about the problem in Balkan countries. It is a five-year endeavour with a €1.8 million budget, which aims to raise awareness and strengthen national capacities to fight the problem of wildlife poisoning across Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, the Republic of North Macedonia and Serbia. It received funding from the EU’s LIFE Programme, and it is co-financed by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, the MAVA Foundation and Euronatur, as well as by the Whitley Fund for Nature and Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund for specific actions. Project partners are the Vulture Conservation Foundation as the coordinating beneficiary, and the Albanian Ornithological SocietyAssociation BIOMBird Protection and Study Society of SerbiaFund for Wild Flora and FaunaHellenic Ornithological SocietyMacedonian Ecological SocietyOrnitološko društvo NAŠE Ptice and the Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania as associated beneficiaries. Furthermore, this project is based on Spanish best practice experience and counts with the support from the Junta de Andalucía and the Spanish Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge.

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