The first Spanish Griffon Vultures are about to arrive in Cyprus to support the extremely threatened population of the species on the island. The restocking action takes place within the framework of LIFE with Vultures, which aims to prevent the extinction of the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) from the island and at the same time strengthen its population and promote long-term survival.
Griffon Vultures in Cyprus are on the brink of extinction
Today, the Cypriot Griffon Vulture population numbers around 18-20 individuals, of which only 2-3 pairs breed successfully. Due to the extremely small number of vultures that Cyprus now has, the slow reproduction of the species and the threat of illegal poisoning, the population can not recover on its own. In fact, a study predicted that the Cypriot Griffon Vulture population will disappear within the next 15 years if targeted conservation measures are not implemented, such as tackling the use of poisoned baits, which is the most serious threat to the species, and strengthening the population by importing birds from another country.
Saving the Cypriot Griffon Vulture population through LIFE with Vultures
Through the LIFE with Vultures project, about 25 Spanish Griffon Vultures will be released in Cyprus to restock the remaining population and help reach at least 45 birds by the end of the project in 2023. The Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) has extensive experience and expertise in restocking vulture populations of various species and in different regions.
The project also implements actions to address key threats, especially to reduce the use of poisoned baits in the open, which is the main cause behind the depletion of the population of the species. Upon their arrival, the vultures will remain in a specially designed acclimatization aviary, built and operated by the Game and Fauna Service, for 5-6 months to get used to their new home before being released into the wild to join the local population. Ahead of their release, the LIFE with Vultures team will equip the vultures with GPS transmitters to monitor their movements and rescue birds in time if they are in need of help.
Spain donates young Griffon Vultures to the project
Spain is the ideal country to donate birds as it boasts the healthiest European vulture population, hosting 90-95% of all vultures in the continent, with Griffon Vulture pairs numbering 30,000. Every year, Griffon Vultures that hatch in the wild in Extremadura, Spain, need rescuing after suffering from malnutrition and weakness. These young and inexperienced birds get a second chance at life as they are retrieved and transferred to the wildlife rehabilitation centres, where dedicated teams nurse them back to health for their eventual release into the wild. In collaboration with us at the VCF, the Junta de Extremadura donated 15 young Griffon Vultures to the project this year, which entered the wildlife rehabilitation centre AMUS to spend the pre-transport quarantine period in the centre’s specialised facilities and undergo some further health checks before their departure. From there, the vultures will cover more than 4,000 until they reach their new home.
The 15 Spanish Griffon Vultures arrived safe and sound in Cyprus
During a small event on Friday, 19 November 2021, the first 10 birds received a warm welcome by the Director-General of the Ministry of Interior, Mr Constantinou, the diplomatic representative of the Embassy of Spain in Cyprus, Mr Manuel de la Iglesias, the “LIFE with Vultures” project team (BirdLife Cyprus, Game and Fauna Service, Vulture Conservation Foundation and Terra Cypria) as well as representatives from the Cyprus Police, the Department of Environment, the Veterinary Services, the State General Chemistry Department and the Hunting Federation. The remaining 5 Griffon Vultures arrived safely two days later on Sunday. Shortly after their arrival, all birds were ringed and entered the Game and Fauna Service’s special acclimatization aviary, their temporary home, located in the province of Limassol. The project aims to transfer 15 more Griffon Vultures from Spain to Cyprus at a later stage as part of the restocking efforts.
LIFE with Vultures
LIFE with Vultures is a targeted conservation project for the protection of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus. In this four-year endeavor (2019-2023), BirdLife Cyprus, the Game and Fauna Service, Terra Cypria – The Cyprus Conservation Foundation and the Vulture Conservation Foundation have joined forces to tackle the main threats facing the Griffon Vulture and prevent Cyprus’ most threatened bird of prey from going extinct. The project has a 1,375,861 Euro budget and is co-funded (60%) by the EU’s LIFE programme.