The restocking action took place as part of the “LIFE with Vultures” project, which aims to prevent the extinction the Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus from the island and at the same time strengthen its population and preserve it for the long-term.
The 14 vultures were transferred to a special acclimatization aviary of the Game and Fauna Service in Limassol District where they will stay for the next 5-6 months. Prior to their release, all birds will be fitted with GPS transmitters to help the project team monitor their movements and intervene in case a bird is in danger.
Concerning the first vultures that were released last September, movement data derived from the GPS transmitters that the vultures carry on their backs show that the birds have adapted well, have successfully integrated into the local population, use the feeders and regularly visit important locations within the known vulture range. Unfortunately, a few days following release, we had two losses, which to some extent was to be expected due to the birds’ young age.
Restocking is an accepted and widespread practice aiming to saving an endangered species from going extinct. Due to the extremely small number of vultures that Cyprus now has, the slow reproduction rate of the species and the frequent poisoning incidents, the population cannot recover on its own. In fact, a study predicted that the Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus will go extinct in the next 15 years, if targeted conservation measures are not implemented, such as tackling the use of poisoned baits, which is the most serious threat to the species, and strengthening the population with restocking actions.
Spain is the ideal country to donate birds as it boasts the healthiest European vulture population, hosting 90-95% of all vultures in the continent, with Griffon Vulture pairs numbering 30,000. The birds selected for transport to Cyprus were young individuals that hatched in Spain and ended up in the AMUS rehab center due to an injury or weakness. After having made a full recovery, the birds were selected for the restocking of the Cyprus population.
The LIFE with Vultures project team would like to thank everyone who contributed to this effort:
- The Government of Spain and the Junta de Extremadura for the donation of birds.
- The AMUS Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for caring for the birds and hosting them prior to their departure.
- The Vulture Conservation Foundation for their expertise and for handling the difficult process of the birds’ transportation.
- Hermes Airports for providing access to the airport premises upon the arrival of the birds.
- Emirates for the transportation of birds.
- The EU and the LIFE program as well as the Tasso Leventis Conservation Foundation that are co-funding this effort.
- All stakeholders who support this effort.