One of the Spanish Griffon Vultures released in Cyprus © Silvio A. Rusmigo
About two months have passed since the LIFE with Vultures project released 15 Spanish Griffon Vultures into the countryside of Cyprus to help reinforce the small and vulnerable local population.
So far, movement data derived from the GPS transmitters show that the birds are adapting well and have successfully integrated with the local population. This outcome is very encouraging and what the project was hoping for. Unfortunately, there were also two losses a few days following the release, which to some extent was to be expected due to the birds’ inexperience and young age.
Initial movements following the release
After being released, the Spanish vultures initially remained close to the release site, making short flights, returning to nearby cliffs to roost at night, and regularly visiting the feeder located right next to the acclimatization cage, where they had spent the previous ten months. The vultures of the local population, now consisting of Cypriot and Cretan birds (released 7-9 years ago) and their offspring, regularly visited the area until the first Spanish vultures followed them to new places.
Some vultures fly to dangerous territory
Since the release, the LIFE with Vultures project team has been closely monitoring the vultures, both through the GPS transmitters and in the field. The first few weeks after the releases were critical and required the team to be on standby, as some vultures were seen flying near the Oreites wind farm or in areas with a recent poisoning incident, while others were seen landing on roads or roosting on electricity pylons. In some cases, the Game and Fauna Service had to intervene to check on birds in the field or to move them to a safer location.
Drowning and electrocution causes two vulture deaths
The two losses were due to drowning and electrocution. On 24 September, just nine days after its release, the vulture with the ring code ‘CAR’ flew over the city of Limassol and fell into the sea at the Limassol mooring area, probably due to exhaustion. With the help of the Coastguard – whom we thank for their immediate response – we collected the dead bird and recovered the transmitter. On 3 October, just five days after his release, the vulture named Gyprios died of electrocution on an electricity pylon next to Kouris Dam. Post-mortems performed on the two birds confirmed the causes of death.
Spanish vultures integrate well with the local population
The movements of the other 13 Spanish Griffon Vultures show that they have joined the local population. They use the feeders and regularly visit important locations within the known vulture range, such as the southern edges of the Paphos Forest, rural areas of Limassol province such as Sotira, Paramali, Kyvides, Pachna and Dora, as well as the area around Episkopi within the British Bases. So the overall picture is very encouraging.
The project team continues to closely monitor the vultures and is working to prevent further losses by addressing all threats to the species in order to reduce mortality in the population and give it a chance to recover.
The LIFE with Vultures project
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.
Source: LIFE with Vultures