The efforts of the LIFE RE-Vultures project to preserve and increase the Cinereous Vulture and Griffon Vulture populations in the Rhodope Mountains have been recognized with the nomination of the LIFE Citizens’ Prize. The project is among the 12 finalists for the award. Vote now for LIFE RE-Vultures and support the recovery of vulture populations.
The LIFE RE-Vultures project
Vultures play a crucial role in well-functioning ecosystems. Over the last five years, the LIFE RE-Vultures project helped stabilize and grow the Cinereous Vulture and Griffon Vulture populations in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria and Greece.
Rewilding Europe developed the LIFE RE-Vultures project in collaboration with the Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF Greece, the Hellenic Ornithological Society, and us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation.
Co-financed by the EU’s LIFE Programme, the project team successfully implemented various actions to protect and increase the numbers of both vulture species in the region. Some of the key results and achievements of LIFE-RE Vultures include mitigating threats such as electrocution by insulating dangerous electricity power lines and poisoning by creating Bulgaria’s first anti-poison dog unit team. The project also improved the natural food availability of vultures by successfully releasing fallow and red deer and promoting a sustainable population.
Strengthening the Griffon Vulture population
The Eastern Rhodopes is the only place in Bulgaria where an indigenous Griffon Vulture population still exists. Within the project, 308 Griffon Vultures hatched in the Bulgarian part of the Rhodope Mountains thanks to long-term efforts. Compared to 2016, where 81 pairs were registered, today there are 111. Furthermore, the data show an increase in the number of individuals — from 184 in 2016 to 245 Griffon Vultures in 2020. The latest monitoring efforts confirm the upward trend witnessed in recent years with 76 Griffon Vulture chicks hatching in the Rhodope Mountains in Bulgaria.
Establishing the first anti-poison dog unit in Bulgaria
Among other steps, a significant milestone of the project was the establishment of the first anti-poison dog unit in Bulgaria to detect and remove poisons from nature, while supporting police investigations relating to wildlife poisoning. Over four years, the team conducted 153 searches and patrols. The unit detected 310 potential threats, 40 of which were illegally poisoned animals, 7 carcasses and 10 poisonous baits. The human handler, alongside the working dog, found a total of 11 poisoned animal species.
Restoring the red deer and fallow deer populations
One of the aims of LIFE Re-Vultures was to improve the availability of wild ungulate carcasses to vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes. With targeted actions, the project aimed to rebuild, step by step, the fallow deer and red deer populations in the whole of the Eastern Rhodopes. Such reintroduction efforts have been in motion for years to help create biodiversity-rich mosaic landscapes and enhance local food chains. Thanks to reintroduction efforts over the last five years, more than 400 fallow deer and 50 red deer have been released in different areas across the Eastern Rhodopes. At the same time, the return of wild ungulates in the wild helps reduce damages to domestic animals and as a result, improves human-wildlife conflict.
Monitoring vulture movements and behaviour
Tracking the movements and behaviour of Cinereous Vultures and Griffon Vultures through GPS transmitters was another important aspect of the project. This action allows conservationists to identify and mitigate the species’ main threats as GPS data provides great insight into their migrations, feeding habits, and more aspects of their lives. That is why the project team installed GPS transmitters on 27 Cinereous Vultures and 33 Griffon Vultures in Bulgaria and Greece.
The LIFE Awards
The LIFE Awards recognize the most innovative, inspirational and effective LIFE projects in three categories: nature protection, environment and climate action. The winners are selected by an expert jury and announced on the day of the ceremony, which takes place during the EU Green Week – Europe’s biggest environmental event.
The LIFE Citizens’ Prize allows the general public to vote for their preferred project online. The voting will end on the day of the ceremony. The winner will be announced live during the LIFE Awards 2022 Ceremony, with members of the LIFE RE-Vulture project present.
Please vote for LIFE RE-Vultures for the LIFE Citizens’ Prize by Monday, 30 May 2022!
Source: Rewilding Rhodopes Foundation