Last Wednesday a team from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) has put three young captive-bred Egyptian vultures in an artificial nest in the Natural Park “Rusenski Lom”. The vultures were born in the Zoos of Vienna (2) and Paris, and were brought to Bulgaria by the VCF-Prague Zoo Egyptian vulture EEP (Captive Breeding Network) coordinator Anton Vaidl.
This experimental release of captive-bred Egyptian vultures in Bulgaria is the first ever in the country and in the Balkans. Last year the VCF had already released 6 captive-bred Egyptian vultures in Italy, in collaboration with CERM (Endangered Raptors Centre Association – Italy). These experiments are trials to evaluate the relevance and the effectiveness of this conservation tool to help the endangered Egyptian vulture.
The three young Egyptian vultures were all tagged with a satellite transmitter and marked with colour rings, ring under the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron”. Two of the vultures are female – Elodie and Regina, named after their zookeepers. The third bird is a male and was named Lom – the name of the park. The young birds will spend the next 10 days in the artificial nest, under constant observation and care, to get used to the area, before eventually fledging.
The artificial nest has been located on a specially selected area – near a supplementary feeding site where birds can find food, and near a local breeding pair of Egyptian vultures. The wild birds could guide the young ones in finding safe places for food and rest, and in fall could show them a safe migration route to their wintering sites. This method of reintroduction of captive-bred individuals is widely used in many species.
The vultures were provided within the framework of the European Endangered Species Programmes (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), by courtesy of the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF).
The Egyptian vulture is the only species of European vulture does long-distance migration. Every year they travel from Europe to Africa and back. After their first migration the young birds remain in Africa for 3-4 years, before they return back to their breeding territories. Thanks to the satellite transmitters we will be able to track the three Egyptian vultures. This information will help us to evaluate whether the method is successful or not.
In last year´s trials, two of the birds released made it to winter in Africa, but three drowned in the Mediterranean.
The release this year is carried out within the BSPB LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron”, with the assistance of the VCF, Rusenski Lom Natural Park and Green Balkans.