Project GYPAS

The Project GYPAS for protecting and enhancing the population of Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in Cyprus, under the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme Greece - Cyprus 2007-2013 ran from September 2011 until January 2014.

During the project, 25 vultures from Crete were brought to Cyprus, to strengthen the Cypriot population which had reached as few as 10 birds in the wild. The birds stayed in rehabilitation cages built under the project in order to prepare them for release and the last birds were released in the wild in February 2015.

The project aimed at strengthening the vulture population in Cyprus, as in the last decades its numbers had decreased considerably, putting it in immediate danger of extinction. This became possible with the introduction of birds from Crete, which were housed in cages especially built for them, while the project also included various public awareness actions to increase awareness amongst the pupils and citizens and highlight how they can help. Finally, detailed monitoring of the existing population took place.

The population of the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in Cyprus has been declining rapidly over the past 20 years. During the 1960s, the population consisted of at least 100 individuals, but a Vulture population census which took place in March 2011 and which covered 14 locations in the south-west of the island, showed that the total Vulture population in Cyprus that currently lived in the wild was only between 6-8 birds. Compared to the Cypriot population, the Vulture population of Crete is over 400 individuals.
Griffon Vulture © A. Stoecker

 

The reasons for the decline of this species are the targeted actions against Vultures, mortality due to poisoned baits placed for the elimination of foxes and feral dogs, the reduction of food due to the reduction of traditional free-range grazing and disturbance during the nesting period.

Due to the small size of the island, the small Cypriot population is vulnerable to environmental changes and disasters, and inbreeding. The population of Crete is considered healthy, though conservation actions there are also necessary.

Despite the fact that there have been efforts made to help the population of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus, these have not been successful to the point of safety for this species. According to Cypriot law 152 (Ι) 2003, the species is endangered, and during the past few years only one to two pairs have been reproducing each year, with the fate of the young Vultures still uncertain.

This led the competent authorities in Cyprus (Game Fund, Department of Forests), together with BirdLife Cyprus and others, to draw up a management plan for the Griffon Vulture, whose main aim is the reinforcement of the population with individuals from abroad. Considering that only Greece (Crete) and Spain have populations of this species that can sustain the export of individuals to another country, efforts for a possible partnership with either Greece or Spain had already been in the works for a few years before the start of the project.

Finally, the Vulture population in Crete was considered the most suitable one for the reinforcement of the Cypriot population because it is the closest one genetically and geographically, with similar ecological characteristics.

Despite these efforts, the population still cannot be considered safe, and more birds need to be released from Crete or Spain, in order to strengthen the population, while it’s necessary to continue the awareness raising programme and the regular supplying of the three vulture restaurants. It is imperative that the conservation measures to strengthen the population of this species continue and BirdLife Cyprus is committed to continue to push for the better protection of vultures in Cyprus. The Griffon Vulture is after all a specially protected species under Cyprus legislation.

Find out more about project GYPAS by visiting the project’s website on www.gypas.org.

 

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