California condor that helped save species back in the wild


This March 2013 video from the USA says about itself:

Condor Chick Feeding at San Diego Zoo (VNR) … Wesa hatched to parents AC-4 and Mexwe.

From Associated Press in the USA:

California condor that helped save species returns to wild

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER

Dec. 31, 2015 4:40 PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Banking into the wind and then gliding out of sight, a male California condor flew back into the wild after a captive breeding program that helped save North America’s largest species of land bird.

The 35-year-old bird named AC-4 soared out of his open pen earlier this week at a canyon rim inside the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, in central California’s Kern County. He had been one of just 23 condors left in the world in the 1980s.

It was the bird’s first free flight since 1985, when a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service team captured him near the same spot. It was part of a last-ditch attempt to stop the extinction of the California condor, which has a wing span of more than 9 feet.

AC-4 needed only a few minutes to get his bearings before flying out of the pen and over the canyon, said Joseph Brandt, a lead condor biologist with the wildlife service. Brandt was sitting on a hilltop nearby to watch the release.

“He kind of flew right past us. It was really incredible,” Brandt said by telephone Thursday.

Lead poisoning is believed one of the main factors that drove California condors toward extinction. The birds ingest fragments of lead bullets when they feed on carcasses of animals shot by hunters.

California lawmakers voted in 2013 to phase out lead bullets for hunting by 2019.

Biologists believe AC-4 was 5 to 7 years old when they captured him for the captive breeding program. He fathered the first chick born in the program, giving the program’s founders greater hope they could save the species.

In all, AC-4 sired 30 condor chicks that have been successfully released into the wild.

“Many people have poured their heart and soul” into saving the condors, Jesse Grantham, a former condor program coordinator and part of the original team that captured AC-4, said in a statement from the wildlife service.

This year, biologists recorded 19 wild condor nests in central and Southern California, more nests than at any point this century, Brandt said.

Condors can live up to 60 years in the wild and mate for life, Brandt said. Biologists hope AC-4, which they have tagged for tracking, will pick a mate before the courting season ends this winter, he said.

Save African vultures


This video says about itself:

Saving Nature’s Clean Up Crew – BirdLife’s Campaign to conserve African Vultures

13 October 2015

Most vultures are teetering on the brink of extinction across Africa. Considering the vital role they play in preventing the spread of life-threatening diseases, we must do everything we can to save these unsung heroes.

Vultures are misunderstood. They are the bringers of life, not the takers. They are the cleaners of your world.

Vultures are the halters of disease – stopping the spread of anthrax, botulism, rabies and tuberculosis.

Vultures are the sentinels of your skies – they point the way for rangers to find poachers.

For centuries, vultures were revered for they are vital.

But now, vultures are persecuted. They are being poisoned, hunted and exploited.

Vultures are disappearing because they are misunderstood.

Some vulture populations have declined by 98%.

In 2015, BirdLife International declared four African vulture species to be on the edge of extinction.

You are the most powerful species on this planet – use your power to change, use your power to act.

To act now, visit here.

West African Ambassadors endorse BirdLife’s Vulture Campaign: here.

Pyrenean bearded vultures, new study


This video is about adult and (mainly) bearded vultures in Spain, between griffon vultures and ravens.

From Raptor Politics:

Removal of eggs or chicks has considerable impact in the Pyrenean population of bearded vultures – new paper

A new paper published recently (see below) suggests that the removal of eggs, chicks or fledglings will have a detrimental effect on the population trend of the bearded vulture in the Pyrenees over the next 30 years, in most modelled scenarios.

The removal of eggs or chicks from wild populations to create captive populations, reinforce free-ranging populations or reintroduce species into the wild is a restoration tool that is often used, including with bearded vultures in the Pyrenees (eggs collected for reintroduction in Picos de Europa). However, it is necessary to assess objectively potential detrimental effects upon the donor population.

Margalida et al. modelled the population under different demographic and management scenarios (removal of eggs, chicks or fledglings) and obtained a population decline in 77% of all 57 scenarios analysed. The study also shows that the effects of extractions will not be detectable until more than nine years after the initiation of such interventions.

Based on this, the authors question if extractions for future reintroductions should be envisioned. In particular egg extraction bears a great risk of failure due to the low hatching success observed today in the wild (25–45%). Alternative, less risky management options would be the collection of only the second, freshly-born chick from double clutches (given that in this species siblicide is the rule) and the release from captive stock – the method used by the VCF in our reintroduction projects.

The bearded vulture population in the Pyrenees has most likely reached saturation, as inferred from productivity trend (significantly down), changes in mating system (recent increase in the proportion of trios), as well as in the distance between neighbouring nests that declined by > 20% between 1992 and 2002.

Adult mortality – the demographic variable with most impact on population growth in this species – has been steadily increasing over the recent years in the Pyrenean population, and demographic forecasts, including the present study, predict a negative trend and its near-extinction over the next 50 years if non-natural mortality (i.e. illegal poisoning) continues unabated.

The age at first breeding has also been increasing in the Pyrenean population, passing from 8 years during the period 1987–2006 to 10 years presently – most likely the outcome of density-dependent regulation.

The VCF defends that in order to reverse this tends, it will be necessary to stop artificial feeding in the core population area, while targeted supplementary feeding at the limits of the current Pyrenean distribution range should be promoted to boost dispersal and future settlement into neighbouring mountain ranges – this is indeed the objectives of the LIGE GYPCONNECT we are now starting – seehere.

You can download the paper below.

Cinereous vulture in Macedonia, after ten years


This video, from Azerbaijan, Turianchai reserve, June 24, 2013 is called Cinereous Vulture. Battle.

From the Vulture Conservation Foundation:

Black (cinereous) vulture seen in Macedonia – first observation in the last 10 years

A second or third year black vulture was seen (Friday 30.10.15) at a vulture supplementary feeding station in Vitachevo, together with 28 griffon vultures.

Black vultures became extinct in the Balkans throughout the 20th century, except for one isolated breeding population that remained in Dadia Forest in NE Greece, and that totals about 30 pairs.

Black vulture populations in Spain – their European stronghold – have been increasing (now totals more than 2000 pairs). The reintroduced population in France is also well established and includes now more than 35 pairs, so the number of black vultures seen in Central Europe, notably around the Alps, has been increasing in recent years.

Vitacheco is about 350km from Dadia, as the crow flies. This bird could have originated there, but a western European origin cannot also be dismissed.

The Vulture Conservation Foundation together with a number of partners, including the Bulgarian NGO Green Balkans, are now starting a project to reintroduce black vultures to the Central Balkan mountains in Bulgaria (LIFE+ Vultures Return Back to LIFE). The project is now starting, but first releases of black vultures will only happen in 2018.

This observation is good news, and creates a lot of expectations that in the not so distant future this species could eventually be re-established around the Balkans. With adequate vulture conservation measures taking now place in several countries in the region, and with a coordinated effort to control poisoning – vultures main threat -, we hope that the silhouette of black vultures becomes soon a more familiar sight in the Balkan skyline.

This article was published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation in Oct 2015

Vultures’ autumn migration from Spain to Morocco


This is a Rüppell’s vulture video from Africa.

From Moroccan Birds blog, with photos there:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

More than 400 Griffon Vultures and 1 Rüppell’s Vulture migrating at Jbel Moussa

More than 400 Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) crossed today the Strait of Gibraltar at Jbel Moussa and Punta Cires (Dalia). They were first detected circling and gaining altitude near Algarrobo (between Tarifa and Algeciras in Spain) by telescope at 10H50min. The first group started to cross at 11h22min and started to arrive to Morocco at 11h56min (with slight westerly winds). They were four groups of 238, 83, 18 and 70 vultures.

In late afternoon we met Jose Antonio Barba Ramos who visited us from Murcia, and he told us that he observed about 300 vultures at Cazalla near Tarifa of which a group of about 100 were about to cross the Strait at 15h00min (Moroccan time).

One Rüppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) also crossed with the griffons but was not seen in the field but was detected when Rachid El Khamlichi was processing the photographs.

A week ago, more than 3500 Griffon Vultures were recorded at Jbel Moussa after crossing the Strait of Gibraltar.

Save African vultures


Pro-vulture information by BirdLife South Africa

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partners commit to saving Africa’s vultures

By Shaun Hurrell, Thu, 22/10/2015 – 13:11

“I can’t imagine Africa’s skies devoid of vultures,” said BirdLife South Africa’s Chief Executive, Mark Anderson, when he chaired a crucial meeting last week to take action against this currently ill-fated family of birds.

And it is not just the skies – you do not want to imagine how the land will look (and smell) if Africa is devoid of vultures, nature’s unique and thorough waste and carcass ‘clean-up crew’ that halts the spread of disease for free.

You see, vultures are in drastic decline in Africa and it is high-time the world fully-appreciated the severity of this problem for not only the birds themselves, but the health of the people of the continent (and their livelihoods – given the economic value of carcass removal by vultures).

“Africans, who derive direct benefits from having their vultures in their skies, must take the lead in mitigating threats to African vultures,”

said Dr Kabelo Senyatso, Director of BirdLife Botswana and current Chairman of the BirdLife Council for African Partnership.

A coordinated response is urgently needed that does justice to the scale of this imminent crisis.

As such, BirdLife Partner NGOs across Africa join forces and commit to playing a leading role in efforts to save the continent’s vultures. This is the conclusion of a workshop on African vultures held at the BirdLife Council for Africa Partnership Meeting in Senchi, Ghana, on 13 October 2015. The energy and warm air in that meeting room gave a real uplift towards getting vulture populations soaring once again in Africa.

Not having the best cultural reputation, Africa’s vultures need all the support they can get at the moment. As South Asia’s vulture populations have collapsed since the mid-1990s, those of Africa have also been declining, less steeply but over a longer period. This has led in many areas to a similar loss, for example around 98% of West Africa’s vultures outside protected areas have disappeared over the last 30 years. In South Africa, Cape Vulture have declined by 60-70% in the last 20-30 years. The causes of the declines in Africa are more varied and complex than those in Asia, which were driven mainly by the use in cattle of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac.

Africa holds 11 species of vulture, 6 of which are not found elsewhere.

They face threats from poisoning – both accidental and deliberate – related to human-carnivore conflict and the poaching of large mammals. In much of southern Africa, locals call the poison used “two-step” because an animal takes only two steps before it drops down dead.

Persecution of vultures for their body parts for use in cultural practices and divination is also a headline threat – for example contributing majorly to an 80% decline in Hooded Vulture in Nigeria. Other threats include collisions with powerlines and wind energy infrastructure, habitat loss, declines in food availability and disturbance at breeding sites.

Stopping and reversing the declines, by tackling these difficult issues, is one of the greatest challenges facing bird conservation in Africa. Though we need to continue to learn more about the threats and their relative importance in different parts of Africa, we cannot afford to wait to begin to take action. Large-scale initiatives are needed, engaging strongly on political and cultural as well as socio-economic levels.

“Rather than counselling despair,” says Roger Safford, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme Manager, “Conservationists need to show the world that we can make a difference starting now.”

At the Senchi meeting, BirdLife Partners and contacts representing or working in 25 vulture range states in Africa identified such activities.

Most Partners committed to changing people’s perceptions about vultures. We have new materials and momentum with which to educate, advocate and raise awareness of their value and the consequences of their disappearance. Other commitments included focus on regulating the use of agrochemicals in East and Southern Africa, and focus on tackling traditional practices and the market for it in both South Africa and West Africa. Through local achievements, combined with the results of ongoing research, we can join forces to build up to tackle the most intractable threats such as poaching and human-wildlife conflict at source.

The future of a family of birds depends on what happens next.

Some Partners, such as BirdLife South Africa, have already started ground-breaking communications campaigns to get people listening.

The BirdLife Partners also recognised the crucial need to work together, with not only other bird conservation organisations active in Africa, such as the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Vulture Specialist Group, The Peregrine Fund and Endangered Wildlife Trust; but also those concerned with other species, such as elephants, hyenas and lions, that are also affected by many of the same threats.

“The threats facing these magnificent birds should compel all of us – not just conservation agencies – to take an interest and have an active role in saving them,” commented Dr Senyatso.

Patricia Zurita, with Bradnee Chambers (Executive Secretary of the UNEP Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS)) recently made a commitment to ensure that the plight of these essential creatures is made known to a global audience.

Beyond this, the health, sanitation, tourism, agriculture and other sectors all experience the consequences of the loss of ‘nature’s clean-up crew’ (for example the decline in vultures had an estimated annual cost of $1.5 billion to human health in India), and will all gain from solutions to the crisis. This brings in Governments, bilateral and multilateral agencies (including regional trade blocs), scientific bodies and many others. Religious leaders, too, have a key role to play in spreading the concern for vultures, and showing that trade in and use of vulture body parts for cultural and divination practices needs to stop.

With the support of the BirdLife International Partnership, lessons will be learned, and shared, with Europe and Asia, where much progress has been made but threats remain such as the licensing of veterinary diclofenac in Europe. The recent ban on veterinary diclofenac announced by the Government of Iran is a very welcome step to be emulated elsewhere.

A few days before the Senchi meeting, countries across Eurasia and Africa had agreed to list twelve vulture species, including all the highly threatened African species, as priorities for action under the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey (Raptors MOU) – a subsidiary agreement under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) – as a response to the African vulture crisis. This brings new opportunities to strengthen and link Government and civil society commitments to national and regional initiatives such as the Pan‐African Vulture Strategy, through the development of a Multi-species Action Plan covering all the vultures of the Old World.

Dr Senyatso directs his words to the people of Africa:

“If you pause for a minute to think about what an African sky without vultures means to your own personal life, you will realise that you need to actively participate in their conservation.”

To conclude, watch this space… We’re not just going to sit around and watch vultures fall out of the sky.

“We can turn this generation around to understanding that vultures are most important when they are alive and fulfilling their unique role in the ecosystem,”

says BirdLife’s Chief Executive, Patricia Zurita.

“Let’s save nature’s clean-up crew.”

Good vulture news from Iran


This video says about itself:

21 April 2014

The Vulture Conservation Foundation has been at the forefront of the campaign to ban diclofenac in Europe. Ever since we were alerted for the legal marketing of this drug in Italy and Spain in late 2013, the VCF has researched the situation, established the current state of play, and promoted the building of a coalition of like-minded organisations to fight together this threat (Birdlife International, SEO/BirdLife, LIPU, the RSPB and the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group).

Diclofenac is extremely lethal to vultures, and has caused a 99% decline in several vulture species in the Indian subcontinent. This veterinary drug has been now banned from 4 countries in South Asia, only to reappear legally in Europe. This is probably the most significant threat to Europe’s vultures — whose populations have been steadily recovering following considerable investment by the EU, national governments and organisations like the VCF.

There are alternatives readily available to vet diclofenac, so we must learn from the Indian example, and STOP this drug before it is too late for Europe’s vultures. The VCF wants to see a total ban on diclofenac in the EU.

From BirdLife:

Veterinary diclofenac now completely banned in Iran

By Julien Jreissati, Mon, 19/10/2015 – 11:50

The Iranian Department of Environment has officially banned the export, import, production and veterinary use of diclofenac in the country.

“Iran’s decision to ban diclofenac is a major step to protect vultures in the African-Eurasian region. It is a clear demonstration of the country’s concern for and leadership on the conservation of migratory birds of prey. Other countries should follow Iran’s lead and that of the other countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal that have also banned diclofenac”, said Lyle Glowka, Executive Coordinator, CMS Office – Abu Dhabi.

This significant decision was announced during the 2nd Meeting of Signatories to the Convention on Migratory Species Raptors MoU, which Iran signed in March 2015.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the last remaining major strongholds in the Middle East region for the rapidly declining and endangered Egyptian Vulture. It hosts around 60% of the migratory birds of prey species covered by the Raptors MoU.

The complete ban of diclofenac by the Iranian government was welcomed by the Signatories to the Raptors MoU and by BirdLife International. Its action will reinforce the ongoing international battle to prevent the extinction of vultures and other birds of prey in the region. This achievement was made possible by close cooperation between the Department of Environment, the Iran Veterinary Organization, and the Tarlan Ornithology Group.

Ibrahim Khader, Regional Director of the BirdLife Middle East Partnership secretariat expressed his satisfaction, “this very important achievement by the Islamic Republic of Iran, is an example to follow for governments in other vulture range states. This we hope will reduce the mortality rate of vultures and other large raptors in the region and will give a better chance for these key species to survive extinction and slowly thrive again.”

Diclofenac is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug whose veterinary use to treat livestock has been the main cause of the decline of several species of vultures around the world. Vultures are scavengers, often referred to as nature’s “garbage collector”, meaning that they feast on rotting carcasses keeping the environment free from disease. Unfortunately, vultures that feed on animal carcasses recently treated with diclofenac die from renal failure within few days.

Diclofenac has been a major cause of concern in many parts of the world. In South Asia, the populations of three species of vultures (White-rumped Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, and Slender-billed Vulture) have declined by more than 99% since the 1990’s due to the wide veterinary use of diclofenac. However, following a public campaign from the BirdLife Partnership, veterinary diclofenac was completely banned in India, Nepal and Pakistan in 2006. As a result, vulture populations have begun to stabilize although their levels remain low and vulnerable.

In 2013, despite the gruesome Asian experience veterinary diclofenac was made legal in several European countries, such as Spain that notably is home to 95% of the European vulture populations. Because of the threat posed the Convention on Migratory Species Secretariat and BirdLife International have called for the European Union to ban diclofenac.

The CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU) aims to promote internationally coordinated actions to achieve and maintain the favourable conservation status of migratory birds of prey throughout their range in the African-Eurasian region, and to reverse their decline when and where appropriate.

Algeria has the largest population of the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya), and the species is still well represented in several Algerian regions: here.