LIFE Aegypius Return

Consolidating and expanding the Cinereous Vulture population in Portugal and Western Spain

The Cinereous Vulture in Portugal and Spain through the years

20th Century

Formerly widespread in Iberia, the Cinereous Vulture was becoming increasingly scarce in the region over the 20th Century due to habitat loss, wildlife poisoning and direct persecution.

1970s

The species is in trouble. The Cinereous Vulture breeding population went extinct in Portugal, and only around 200 pairs remained in Spain in 1973.

From the late 1980s onwards

Cinereous Vulture numbers start recovering in Spain following the implementation of legal protection and targeted conservation measures.

2010

The Cinereous Vulture naturally recolonises Portugal four decades following its extinction when birds from nearby Spanish breeding colonies began to nest there thanks to the expansion of the population in Spain and after conservation actions improved conditions for scavenging birds in Portugal.

2022

The number of Cinereous Vulture pairs increased to 40 in Portugal, but the population and breeding colonies remain fragile, and the recolonisation process is too slow and limited. Urgent action is needed.

LIFE Aegypius Return launched in 2022 to consolidate, enhance and accelerate the return of Cinereous in Portugal and Western Spain using a transnational and multidisciplinary approach.

Objectives and Scope

The long-term project objective is to secure a favourable conservation status for the Cinereous Vulture in Portugal.

PROJECT OBJECTIVES

Double the breeding population in Portugal from 40 to 80 pairs

Increase breeding success

Downgrade national status from Critically Endangered to Endangered

Enhance the connectivity between colonies

Actions

The project team strives to achieve the project objectives by improving the Cinereous Vulture's habitat and foraging conditions,reinforcing the population, limiting threats and developing national capacities across ten Natura 2000 sites along almost the entire Spanish-Portuguese border.

  • Rehabilitate and release approximately 20 Cinereous Vultures in a fragile breeding colony to promote population growth
  • Equip 60 individuals with GPS transmitters to improve knowledge of the population, habitat use, causes of mortality, movements and feeding behaviour
  • Construct 120 artificial nesting platforms in areas with high breeding potential and repair 105 existing nests to improve nest availability and safety to attract new breeders and reduce breeding failure
  • Establish two new supplementary feeding stations and renovate one, and create 66 unfenced vulture feeding areas around the main colonies to reinforce population and promote connectivity
  • Manage and enhance 570 ha of habitat and create 25 km of fire strips to increase resilience to climate change and forest fires
  • Increase capacity of Portuguese police to combat poisoning and wildlife crime while also establishing two new anti-poisoning dog units
  • Transition 14 hunting areas and 300 hunters to the use of non-lead ammunition to reduce lead poisoning
  • Engage relevant stakeholders in Cinereous Vulture conservation and implement a wide-scale public awareness campaign
  • Funder and Partners

    Participants at the third meeting of LIFE Aegypius Return partners and stakeholders, in Castelo Branco.

    Cinereous Vulture conservation joins stakeholdersin Tejo Internacional, the largest breeding colony in Portugal 

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    Portuguese and Spanish work teams at Herdade da Contenda ©VCF

    Transboundary cooperation to protect the Cinereous Vulture breeding colony at Herdade da Contenda, southern Portugal

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    Cinereous Vulture nest at the Douro Internacional 2024 © Palombar

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