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Helping vultures back to health

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The network of wildlife recovery centres across Europe is vitally important to vulture conservation, helping to bring injured birds back to health. One of these centres is France’s Hegalaldia Rescue Centre that has been treating bearded vultures that encounter difficulties in the French Pyrenees.


Recovered in the French Basque Country by hunters who found the bird in a distressed and weakened state in January this year was Silvano, a 23 year old adult female. 

Silvano hatched from a double clutch back in 1995 in Aragón but the pair disappeared and the eggs were then transferred to the Alfranca Recovery Centre in Spain. After hatching Silvano was transferred to Austria’s Richard Faust Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Centre for adoption. In June 1995 Silvano was released into the wild in the Pyrenees.

After being released her progress was monitored closely and in 2001 she was treated for injuries at the Alfranca Recovery Centre again and made a full recovery. Silvano was last recorded in 2011 after she was forced to abandon her first chick following a helicopter disturbance at her breeding site in France. She since lost her wing tags and the transmitter she had also stopped working.  

When she was found in January 2017, Silvano was taken to Hegalaldia and staff there examined her with x-rays revealing that she had ingested a metallic ear loop from a sheep,  and had damaged feathers and hematomas suggesting she had also been shot at. Silvano made a full recovery at the centre and the broken transmitter, fitted in 2010, was also removed during her stay in the centre.

Silvano was released on Saturday 23 June in the Cize mountains in the French Basque Country after five months in Hegalaldia.

Another example – Cable collison

Found near a high voltage cable in the Ossau valley after a violent storm in March another female breeding bearded vulture was taken to Hegalaldia where staff began treating her for her injuries. Whilst the injuries from the collision were not life threatening, the bird suffered multiple injuries from a prolonged grounding which were particularly worrying for staff. Her breeding attempt this year unfortunately failed after she was found wounded, but her condition is improving, having regained a normal weight and the wounds are healing. Staff are hopeful she’ll make a full recovery and will be released back into the wild soon.  

Third bearded vulture wounded in the Aspe valley

Back in March, Biés, another bearded vulture, was found in the Aspe valley in a great deal of distress and difficulty and transported to the Centre. Once there the vets quickly realised he was suffering from an infection and was treated with antibiotics. The infection was the result of wing markers that Biés was fitted with after visiting a recovery centre in Aragon for a dislocated shoulder just a week before his arrival in Hegalaldia. 

These are just three stories coming from one Wildlife Recovery Centre. With Hegalaldia, the VCF is constantly in touch and providing support and advice on recovering bearded vultures, from all our experience with captive-birds. We also work with many more centres like Hegalaldia all across Europe – all are vital to the efforts to conserve and protect European vultures. The VCF would like to thank their staff and volunteers for the extraordinary commitment and effort they put in. All together for vultures!

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