REINTRODUCTION & RESTOCKING
Using our expertise and experience to restore vulture populations in areas where they are near extinction or have gone extinct in Europe
Over the last century the populations of Bearded, Cinereous, Egyptian and Griffon Vulture have declined dramatically which has seen their distribution ranges across Europe severely restricted.
Conservation efforts to restore vultures to areas where they are near extinction or have gone extinct in Europe has involved tackling the threats that may have led to their decline, addressing the issues the populations face; such improving the natural habitat or food availability, and importantly has involved releasing birds into the wild to either reintroduce a new population or strengthen existing populations.
Since the early 1980s conservation initiatives to return Griffon and Cinereous Vultures to the south of France, Cinereous Vultures in Mallorca, Bearded Vultures across the Alps mountain range and Griffon Vultures in Bulgaria, creating healthy stable populations of these ecologically important birds. These initiatives have been some of the most remarkable wildlife comeback stories of the last 50 years, showing vulture conservation works.
The Vulture Conservation Foundation has been working for over 30 years with partners in Austria, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Our team have been using their expertise to both lead on vulture reintroduction initiatives and support projects led by our partners to restore vulture populations across Europe.
Reintroducing or restocking vulture populations involves several techniques to release captive-bred young birds or releasing wild birds from one more abundant population in one country to a smaller population in another country.
RELEASING YOUNG CAPTIVE-BRED VULTURES
Our staff and Advisory Board members manage the captive populations of the Bearded, Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures in zoos, specialised breeding centres and private collections to breed young birds for release into the wild as part of conservation initiatives across Europe. When they are old enough, the young birds are transported to their release sites and different techniques, depending on the needs of the species, are used to release them into the wild.
One of the most successful technique used for releasing captive-bred birds into the wild is known as hacking. Hacking involves placing the young bird in an artificial nest and feeding them without any human contact for around 20-30 days, as they near the age of fledging or leaving the nest the young birds start to exercise the wings until they finally jump out to their first flight.
DELAYED RELEASE AND FOSTERING IN A WILD NEST
Of the four species of vultures, the Egyptian Vulture is the only one to migrate from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa each year. In their first year, the young birds travel over 30,000km to their wintering grounds. Over the last 30 years, populations of Egyptian Vultures have declined 50% and efforts to boost the wild population with the release of captive-bred birds is increasingly important. In addition to hacking two other methods are used to help improve the survival of captive-bred birds during their first migration:
Delayed release involves waiting for an extra year before the young birds are released into the wild. The young birds remain in captivity after the fledge the nest and are transported to the release site the following spring and kept in an open aviary along with other young birds to adapt to their new home. A year after the age they would have fledged the nest the aviary is open and the birds are released into the wild.
Fostering captive-bred birds in wild nests helps the young birds adapt to the wild at a younger age and introduces them to another young bird which they’ll likely accompany on their first migration.
As a result of conservation efforts populations of Cinereous and Griffon Vultures have significantly recovered in numbers in Spain to allow for wild birds to be transferred to other European countries. Young birds found in distress, suffering from malnutrition and weakness are often recovered to full health in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres. In collaboration with Spanish regional autonomous governments such as the Junta de Andalucía and Junta de Extremadura, and wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centres such as Los Hornos and AMUS we work on a variety of conservation initiatives to transfer these vultures to other countries and release them into the wild. On arrival these birds spend several months in a specially constructed aviaries at the release site to help them adapt to their new home.