Cinereous Vulture Mallorca

Restocking the Cinereous Vulture population in Mallorca before going extinct

Jordi Muntaner

Mallorca is the only Mediterranean island where Cinereous Vultures can be found and not only that, but it is currently the only insular population of the species in the world. This magnificent bird was nearly extinct in Mallorca in the early 1980s with Fundació Vida Silvestre Mediterrània (FVSM) estimating that only about twenty birds and one laying pair were remaining. The leading causes behind this unfortunate situation were illegal hunting and livestock being used as poisoned bait to kill predators, therefore killing vultures that fed on the laced carcasses. In 1983, the Black Vulture Conservation Foundation (BVCF), in conjunction with the regional government of the Balearic Islands, started a conservation project to halt the decline of the species and help boost their population.

FACING EXTINCTION

In the 1980s, there were only 20 individuals remaining on the island. Urgent action was necessary to preserve and boost the local Cinereous Vulture population.

Cinereous vulture closeup
Cinereous Vulture © Bruno Berthemy

To prevent their extintion, several strategic actions were implemented. The biggest threat to vultures worldwide, illegal wildlife poisoning, was controlled, and today it is unheard of on the island. Further, safe food was provided to vultures, with good practices in the local livestock farms and supplementary feeding sites established. Another important activity was the protection of nests to avoid disturbance, which helped with the breeding success of the species. Finally, the BVCF released a total of 35 Cinereous Vultures into the wild between 1984-1992, which were coming from different zoos. In fact, this restocking effort helped initiate the Cinereous Vulture Captive Breeding Network (EEP), which today helps reintroduce and reinforce the population of the species across different European regions. Thanks to these conservation actions, their population has been increasing steadily since the 80’s. Today, the Cinereous Vulture population is booming in Mallorca! The Fundació Vida Silvestre Mediterrània (FVSM) estimates that their population has multiplied by ten during the last four decades with around 200 Cinereous Vultures on the island, including approximately 35 breeding pairs nesting in the Serra de Tramuntana.

THE SPECIES MADE A COMEBACK

Between 1984 to 1992, a total of 35 Cinereous Vultures were released. Thanks to restocking and other conservation actions, today there are around 200 Cinereous Vultures on the island! 

© Bruno Berthemy

The FVSM has unfortunately closed but to help share expertise and experience, the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) now shares many of their board members. The VCF is also currently supporting conservation efforts led by Dr Ainara Cortes Avizada by providing a total of six GPS tags to the project. Monitoring the vultures will help conservationists on the field better understand their behaviour and implement more accurate conservation actions to tackle threats. The GPS data will enable the project team to predict conflicts regarding socio-economic activities such as livestock. Finally, the project will also study the effects and consequences of the natural colonization of the non-native Griffon Vulture in Mallorca that has been sharing territory and resources with the resident Cinereous Vulture since 2008.

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