Last February a team from the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse and from the VCF extracted an egg from a bearded vulture pair in Corsica that had not bred successfully for more than 30 years – an action that had been agreed by all relevant stakeholders under an emergency action plan to save this declining and extremely small island population from going extinct.
The egg was incubated artificially following the protocol developed by the VCF for the captive breeding network, and hatched on the 18th of March. On the 1st of April, the chick was transported by a VCF technician across half of Europe, by air and land, to be adopted by an adult breeding pair in the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Specialized Unit at Guadalentín, Andalusia, Spain, managed by the Junta de Andalusia and Fundación Gypaetus.
The nestling, which turned out to be a female, was immediately adopted by an experienced breeding female. Two weeks later the chick had to be moved to another foster pair because the old female seemed not to feed the chick with sufficient food. And again 2 weeks later, on the 1st of May, it was necessary to remove the chick because the breeding center received a hatchling from another center. Since then the chick has been successful reared by the second foster pair until the 23rd of September when the young Corsican female was removed to its own aviary (see photo), giving the foster pair the possibility to start again with the new breeding season.
This was the first time that an egg from the bearded vulture population in Corsica was incubated artificially, and the first ever chick from the island to hatch in captivity.
This chick will be included in the bearded vulture captive breeding network, in order to create a Corsican genetic reserve. In turn, two young birds from the captive breeding network were released last May in Corsica to boost the extremely small population.
During the last 25 years the bearded vulture population has been declining in Corsica, with the decline most evident in the last few years – from 10 pairs 10 years ago to the current 4. The number of fledglings has also been very poor – between 0 to 2 fledglings per year.
The emergency action plan to save the species is being implemented by the VCF and the Parc Nature Regional de Corse, and is partly funded by the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco and the Fundació Barcelona zoo.