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The silent killer strikes again – this time in Portugal and with a big conservation impact

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Four black vultures and one Egyptian vulture were found dead this weekend near Rio Angueira, Miranda do Douro, in the vicinity of the Natural Park of Douro Internacional, in northeast Portugal, all poisoned.

Poison is the biggest threat to vultures worldwide – these latest victims were most probably victims of poisoned baits laid out against carnivore predators like foxes or genets.

This latest episode is likely to have a significant conservation impact – Egyptian vultures are globally endangered, and declining worldwide, including in Portugal – the canyons of the international stretch of the Douro river are precisely their stronghold in the country. All evidence suggests that adult mortality is the major factor driving population declines in this species, so the death of this individual will have significant impacts.

On the other hand, the black vulture has only recently colonised the area as a breeding species – it first attempted to nest in the area in 2013, and last year one pair raised successfully a young chick, the first time in recent memory this has happened. This colonisation is a rare event for this species, which usually tends to aggregate near existing colonies and does not form new breeding areas easily. The nearest breeding colonies are more than 100km away in Spain, so this colonization is significant – we hope the death of 4 individuals will not meant the demise of this recolonization attempt.

Black and Egyptian vultures are breeding at this time of the year, so the loss of these individuals may also mean breeding failure for their pairs.

One of the black vultures now found poisoned had a satellite transmitter and was colour ringed – it had been marked in the the Natural Parl of the Tejo Internacional (on the Portuguese side) in the summer of 2013.

The VCF has been working to minimize and prevent poisoning of birds, through contributing to the development of national strategies against illegal use of poison, promoting enforcement and enhanced crime prosecution, and raising people’s awareness. Please join us in our fight against the silent killer! Spread the news and support our work!

The VCF has also recently joined forces with national and local conservation organisations in Portugal and Spain to work on the conservation of Egyptian vultures and black vultures precisely in the area where this latest poisoning happened – we are waiting to hear the outcome of a project proposal to start working in the area. This latest episode is a stark reminder that vulture conservation work is urgently needed!

You can see a short tv report on this case in the link below


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