First vultures from Spain released in Cyprus

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Fifteen Griffon Vultures flown in from Spain last autumn have been released in their new home, the Cypriot countryside.

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The LIFE with Vultures project team has successfully released – in two batches – 15 vultures flown in from Spain last November as part of a population boosting action under the project. These birds remained in a special, spacious aviary in the Limassol district for 10 months in order to acclimatize to the local conditions before being released into the wild, where they belong. The Game and Fauna Service fitted GPS transmitters on all released birds to enable the project team to later track their movements and condition. From past experience and examples of similar efforts in Europe, it is expected that the imported vultures will mingle with the remaining Cyprus vultures and that they will soon begin to use the same feeding and roosting areas.

The introduction and release of vultures (of the same species) aims at strengthening the extremely reduced Cypriot population, which currently numbers around 8-10 birds and is on the verge of extinction, due to poisoning. Transferring birds from other geographic areas is an important tool that scientists have at their disposal to boost extremely small and vulnerable populations of species. But this alone is not enough. Halting the dramatic population decline and restoring the species to its “former glory” is a long-term challenge that requires concerted action by all stakeholders. For this reason, within the framework of the LIFE with Vultures project, efforts are being made to prevent and deal with the biggest threat facing the species, the illegal placement of poison baits in the countryside.

The actions against poisons and the actions to strengthen the vulture population that the project implements follow the conclusions and recommendations of a recent study that analyzes the viability of the Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus. Based on this study, if no action is taken to protect the Griffon Vulture, the species will go extinct from Cyprus in just 15 years, mainly due to the high frequency of poisoning incidents. For the population to recover and to ensure the long-term survival of the species in Cyprus, poisoning incidents must be significantly reduced, while the population must be strengthened with individuals from other geographical areas.

As part of the project, 15 more vultures are planned to be flown in from Spain and released in Cyprus in 2023. These birds are a donation from the Local Government of Extremadura in Spain, which is home to 90-95% of Europe’s Griffon vultures. The fate of these birds is now in our hands, and it is our duty to ensure a welcoming and safe natural environment for them, free from poisons and other threats.

LIFE with Vultures is a targeted conservation project for the protection of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus. In this four-year endeavor (2019-2023), BirdLife Cyprus, the Game and Fauna ServiceTerra Cypria and the Vulture Conservation Foundation have joined forces to tackle the main threats facing the Griffon Vulture and prevent Cyprus’ most threatened bird of prey from going extinct. The project has a 1,375,861 Euro budget and is co-funded (60%) by the EU’s LIFE programme

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