Griffon Vulture Cyprus

Emergency restocking efforts to save the Critically Endangered Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus

© Oliver Burton

The Griffon Vulture used to be a common and widespread sight in Cyprus, with hundreds of birds soaring the Cypriot skies until the late 1950s and early 1960s. Since then, various threats caused the dramatic decline of the population, including illegal wildlife poisoning, reduction of food availability due to the decline in traditional farming practises and the disturbance during the nesting period. In the mid-1990s, there were only around 20 to 30 pairs, and between 2011 and 2012, only 10 to 12 birds survived. Urgent action was necessary to prevent the species from going extinct on the island. The Game and Fauna Service in partnership with BirdLife Cyprus, the Department of Forests, the Natural History Museum of Crete and Municipality of Gortynia in Crete launched GYPAS in 2011, an emergency restoking project to preserve the vulnerable Griffon Vulture population.

RESTOCKING THE GRIFFON VULTURE POPULATION

Between 2011 and 2012, only 10 to 12 Griffon Vultures remained in Cyprus. To urgently save the Critically Endangered species on the island, Project GYPAS came to life and released a total of 25 birds originating from the Greek island of Crete into the wild until 2013.

© Raija Howard

GYPAS released a total of 25 birds originating from the Greek island of Crete until 2013, where the species is widespread and shares similar ecological characteristics, to reinforce the local population. GYPAS prevented the extinction of the species, but Griffon Vultures were still under threat on the island due to several threats, mainly poisoning. Just a string of incidents during the winter of 2015 to 2016 resulted in the death of at least seven vultures. To secure the future of the species on the island, a new project called LIFE With Vultures launched in 2019. The project “Saving Griffon Vultures in Cyprus through concrete conservation actions” will address the main threats the species face such as poisoning, lack of safe food, collisions with power lines while also restocking the Griffon Vulture population to the island by transporting birds from Spain. LIFE With Vultures is led by BirdLife Cyprus, in cooperation with Game and Fauna Service, Terra Cypria and us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and is funded by the LIFE Programme.

NEW LIFE PROJECT TO SAVE THE LOCAL POPULATION

To preserve vulnerable Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus, BirdLife Cyprus, in cooperation with Game and Fauna ServiceTerra Cypria and us here at the Vulture Conservation Foundation, are implementing LIFE with Vultures, a conservation project funded by the EU’sLIFE Programme. The project will address the main threats the species face such as poisoning, lack of safe food, collisions with power lines and restock the Griffon Vulture population to the island by transporting birds from Spain.

© Silvio Augusto Rusmigo

The Vulture Conservation Foundation has been closely working with its Cypriot colleagues to preserve Griffon Vultures on the island for years now. During GYPAS, the VCF supported and advised the project on several occasions. As part of the LIFE With Vultures project, the VCF will carry out research on ecosystem services, the development of population viability models and sampling protocols, and build capacity to fight illegal poisoning, which is vultures’ biggest threat in Cyprus. The VCF will also secure and arrange the transportation for around 28 young wild-hatched Griffon Vultures from Spain that are rescued and rehabilitated in recovery centres. This action will help restock the local population and speed up the recovery of the species.

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