The reintroduction of the bearded vulture to the Alps is one of the greatest conservation stories of the last decades in Europe – extinct 100 years ago, there are now 30 established territories, and the number of wild born young will soon surpass the number of young released in the mountains. In the Grands Causses and Andalusia, where releases have started much more recently, the news are also very encouraging- in Andalusia we see the first signs of breeding behavior by the first released birds (in 2006), while in the Grands Causses birds are moving to and from the Alps and the Pyrenees, suggesting the genetic connection between these two metapopulations may be within reach.
These three ongoing reintroduction projects are all based on the young birds from the captive breeding network managed by the VCF, and very well coordinated within an EEP. Numbers of birds available for introduction vary from year to year, so the VCF has usually to juggle various requests and contexts, to finally decide where birds are released. The final decision-making has always been and will continue to be a VCF decision.
However, we all recognize that it is important that project partners, particularly the ones associated with the release sites (6 sites in the Alps, 1-2 in the Grands Causses and 1 in Andalusia) discuss and contribute to the plan for future releases (when, where, how many birds, in different scenarios) , to try to organize themselves and plan work ahead, including the necessary task to plan budgets and projects to support releases and monitoring.
It also needs to be said that any such plan is only an estimate and approximate, as it is affected by uncertainties always inherent to the captive network breeding season – more or less young available depending on many external factors that the VCF cannot fully control. Recognizing that uncertainty, the VCF would like to improve the decision making criteria we use when allocating birds for release, and also to make the whole process more transparent and objective, and has thus produced, together with its many partners, this document, which you can download below.