Griffon Vulture France

The first-ever successful reintroduction project of big raptors — the return of the Griffon Vulture to France

 © Bruno Berthemy

In the 1960s, the Griffon Vulture in France was on the brink of extinction with only about sixty individuals remaining in the far west of the French Pyrenees. The leading causes for their decline included reduced food availability, shooting and indirect poisoning. France has been the place where the first-ever reintroduction programme of big raptors took place — it began at the end of sixties and concerned the Griffon Vulture in the region of the Grands Causses. This project became an experiment upon which most of the following initiatives took example, including the California Condor Recovery Programme. This resulted in a progressing stable population of Griffon Vultures there and several other programmes in the country. Consequently and in order to boost the species in the country, Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO) initiated conservation programmes with a focus on food support in the Pyrenees, Herault or Ardèche and additional reintroduction actions in Drôme provençale and the Verdon Gorges.

IMPROVING FOOD AVAILABILITY

Ahead of the releases of Griffon Vulture to France, it was important to reverse the sharp decline of vultures in the country. To help do so, the first measure was the establishment of the first ‘vulture restaurants’ in the 1960s in the French Pyrenees to provide enough and safe food to vultures that were poison-free.

© Bruno Berthemy

All together, national partners – LPO Grands Causses, Parc national de Cévennes, Vautours en Baronnies and LPO PACA – released almost 350 Griffon Vultures across five different sites in France. For Massif-central, between 1981-1986, 61 birds were released in Grands Causses and between 1993-1997, 50 birds in Navacelles, between 1996 – 2001, 61 birds in Baronies, between 1999-2007, 80 birds in Vercors and between 1999 – 2004, 91 birds in Verdon. Thanks to these actions, the national distribution of Griffon Vultures is almost reconstituted as it existed in the early 20th century. Since then, these numbers have been consolidated, and new colonies are emerging, including in the Aude. Today, there are nearly 2,500 Griffon Vulture pairs spread from the Pyrenees to the Southern Alps and the southern part of the Massif Central.

RELEASING HUNDREDS OF GRIFFON VULTURES

Between 1981 and 2007, French organizations released almost 350 Griffon Vultures across five different sites in France — Massif-central, Grands Causses, Navacelles, Baronies and Verdon.

© Bruno Berthemy

As it is the case for the other European vulture species, the primary role of the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) is to improve the coordination of the national and international actions for the conservation of the Griffon Vulture. It uses French partners’ expertise among others to help the implementation of new projects such as in Bulgaria, Italy and the Balkans, especially concerning the management of food resources and the link with farmers. The VCF actively participates in the Annual meeting of the “Groupe Vautour France” that gathers together all the French partners for the conservation of vultures. The VCF’s input in terms of funding, scientific research orientations and threats management is also essential. Finally, provides material such as GPS tags to different programs.

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