Projects - Project GYPAS

Project GYPAS

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus is the most threatened bird species on the island. From hundreds during the ‘50s down to just around 20 birds today, the species is at the edge of extinction. 

A coordinated effort with the involvement of key stakeholders was initiated in 2011 when the Griffon Vulture population was around 6-8 birds (vulture population census that took place in March 2011). The Project GYPAS (September 2011 until January 2014) aimed at protecting and enhancing the population of Griffon Vulture in Cyprus, under the Cross-Border Cooperation Programme Greece – Cyprus 2007-2013. 

During the project, 25 vultures from Crete were brought to Cyprus, to strengthen the diminished Cypriot population. The birds stayed in rehabilitation cages built under the project in order to prepare the birds for release. The last birds were released in the wild in February 2015. The project also included various public awareness actions to increase awareness amongst school children and citizens and highlighted the ways they can help. Finally, detailed monitoring of the existing population took place. 

The reasons for the decline of this species are the targeted actions against Griffon Vultures, i.e. shooting, 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. 

Despite the fact that there have been efforts 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 Griffon Vultures still uncertain. 

The GYPAS project, gave a second chance to the species, and the current population is still benefiting from the resultof the GYPAS project. However, between the end of the project in 2014 until today (2020), 13 Griffon Vultures have died (7 of them poisoned, 2 were shot and 4 with unknown cause of death). 

Despite the GYPAS project efforts and ongoing efforts after that, the population still cannot be considered safe. Conservation efforts to tackle threats to the species must continue in combination with the introduction of more birds from other healthy European populations. Such an effort started in 2019 with funding from the LIFE program of the European Union. Read more about the current LIFE with Vultures project at https://lifewithvultures.eu/. 

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