Update on the endangered Canary Islands Egyptian vulture (Guirre)

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The Guirre is an endangered, sedentary subspecies of Egyptian vulture, with a small population of +270 individuals occurring presently only in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. Over the last few years the subspecies has been slowly recovering, which gives hope that someday it may be restored on the other Canary Islands where it went extinct.

Monitoring began in 1998, and since then there has been a continuous increase of the population, from 21 occupied territories in 1998 to 62 in 2016 (around 5% annual increase!). The total number of birds was estimated last year at 277 individuals. Most of the population (90%) is concentrated in Fuerteventura, the remaining surviving in Lanzarote and the Chinijo archipelago.

This remarkable population recovery is the result of the continuous and solid efforts of local authorities and electric companies to minimize the main threats for the species – notably electrocution.  Many pylons have been modified, thus reducing the mortality by electrocution, but this is still the main factor of non-natural mortality (5 cases in 2014-2015) – work to modify dangerous pylons continue.

Mortality due to poisoned baits has almost disappeared (it was important before 2008), but there is still an important risk of mortality through lead poisoning (from hunting ammunition). 

Supplementary feeding is provided in three sites (two in Fuerteventura and one in Lanzarote) and presumably has favoured pre-adult survival.

Finally, although not priority within the current conservation strategies, captive breeding has been successful in Tafira (Gran Canaria) in 2013 (a world first) and in La Oliva (Fuerteventura) in 2016.  The first chick “Tamaran” was released in 2013, is still alive and has successfully integrated into the wild population (in the photo). The second chick, named “Sirdo” (a female) will be released in September 2016.

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