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.

Why vultures deserve respect and conservation

This video says about itself:

If Vultures Ate You, Here’s What You’d See

8 September 2015

This is what happens when you put a camera inside a wildebeest carcass on the Serengeti, then drive away.

In some parts of the world, vulture populations have declined by up to 95 percent, mostly from habitat loss and poisoning by humans. Look for more on vultures in the January 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine.

VIDEOGRAPHER: Charlie Hamilton James
EDITOR: Shannon Sanders

By Julie Larsen Maher in the USA:

September 3, 2015

Vultures – Ecological Sentinels

And that is a good thing. These big birds of prey scavenge meals from the rotting remains of animals, and by doing so, help to keep our wild places clean.

Vultures range throughout most of the world, but in some areas, their populations have plummeted. Veterinary drugs like Diclofenac and Nimesulide, used to treat livestock in parts of Asia, linger in carcasses that are toxic to the vultures that feed on them. Once numbering in the tens of millions, three Asian species, the Oriental white-backed, slender-billed, and long-billed vultures, have declined by 99% in the last 20 years as a result. Changing agricultural practices in Africa and Asia, including pesticide application, have removed vulture habitat. In Africa, likewise, vulture numbers are threatened by poisons used to kill predators, and in the Americas, lead poisoning is a key problem holding back these remarkable birds.

Todd Katzner, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and frequent collaborator with the Wildlife Conservation Society, has been working with unique approaches to effectively measure the penetration of ecological contaminants on vultures. He is focusing efforts on more common and stable populations, turkey and black vultures, found in the Americas.

JLM: Can studying vultures help to monitor the health of an entire ecosystem?

TK: Absolutely. Vultures are scavengers. That means that the food that ends up in them is essentially a survey of toxins and other contaminants at lower trophic levels. Thus, the health of the system is really reflected within vultures.

JLM: Why are turkey and black vultures less susceptible to contaminants than other vulture species?

TK: Evolution mostly. For example, vultures are resistant to botulinum toxin. That makes sense because this toxin is associated with rotting meat products and scavengers would benefit by not getting sick when they eat dead stuff. On the other hand, we know vultures are sensitive to some poisons like lead and in the case of Eurasian vultures, Diclofenac.

JLM: What techniques do you use to evaluate turkey and black vultures?

TK: Mostly we study live birds or birds that die for reasons unrelated to our research. With live birds we collect blood and feathers and study contaminant levels in them. In dead birds, we collect samples from a large number of tissues and evaluate relationships among those tissues, to understand how toxins spread throughout the animal’s body.

JLM: How will your work help the vultures in trouble in other parts of the world?

TK: Vultures are ecological sentinels, and if we understand how some of them react to a changing environment, we can begin to use those as models for the ones we understand less well. In the case of North America’s vultures, two of the three species, turkey and black vultures, are doing really well – if we can understand why then we can begin to think about ways that we can help vultures in other places.

JLM: What can people do to help protect and conserve vultures?

TK: Vultures are threatened by a few key problems. Persecution and poisoning are two of the big ones. Within North America, vultures are mostly threatened by lead poisoning, from spent lead ammunition. There are many opportunities for hunters to use effective, non-lead ammunition and use of those products results in less lead in the environment. In Africa, vulture conservation is most well served if we find ways to reduce intentional poisoning of wildlife, especially scavenging wildlife, at carcasses. In India, important steps in drug bans have recently been taken to improve the future outlook of vultures.

Editor’s Note: Saturday, September 5 is International Vulture Awareness Day, established to inform a wider audience about vulture conservation and highlight the important work being carried out by the world’s vulture conservationists.

Saving vultures in Pakistan

This video says about itselF:

31 August 2011

Kenya celebrates the International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD) by showing the diversity of species, illustrating their critical role in the environment and focusing on their main cause for their widespread decline, poisoning with pesticides.

Dr Richard Leakey makes a personal statement regarding his own experience in witnessing the decline of vultures and highlights the need for governments to tackle poisoning issues seriously, otherwise the future of vultures is [certain. IVAD is a global event with awareness campaigns in the America’s, throughout Africa, Europe, Asia and the far East. Vultures have declined as much as 95% over South Asia and India because of the side-effect of diclophenac, a pharmaceutical drug meant to relieve pain in livestock.

Wind turbines and electricity lines are proving to be another serious hazard for vultures all over the world. Habitat removal and disturbance also play major roles in their declines.

Vultures are one of the most beneficial animals due to their “clean-up” work and removing carcasses that would otherwise rot and encourage disease. In Kenya vultures play a vital role in not only wildlife health but in the pastoral livestock rearing lands and in community public health. Join us in celebrating the vulture!

From Pakistan Today:

Plan for protection of fast-disappearing vultures

September 1, 2015 BY PPI

At the Baanhn Beli office in Nagarparkar, Tharparkar, Sindh, close to the Pakistan-India border, a new project was launched at a simple yet colourful, well-attended event to prepare a comprehensive national strategy to protect and conserve endangered vultures.

These birds have become a highly endangered species in Pakistan in recent years.

Serving as a unique scavenger bird for the past 50 million years which cleans the landscape from dead or rotting carcasses and is a vital link in the web of nature and ecosystems, the number of vultures in Pakistan has declined steeply over the past two decades. Nagarparkar Taluka is one of only two or three areas in the whole country where small colonies of vultures are still present.

A total of 224 residents of villages in Nagarparkar Taluka comprising 131 men and 93 women participated in the project launch ceremony. Volunteer-leaders of Baanhn Beli, a representative of IUCN, officials of the Departments of Wildlife, Forests, Local Administration of the Government of Sindh, leaders of other NGOs working in Tharparkar and village leaders addressed the gathering and gave relevant details.

Speakers highlighted the fact that the principal reason for the rapid and alarming reduction in the number of vultures is that a pain-killing drug known as “Diclofenac” normally administered to livestock to kill pain and increase weight and milk production proved to be catastrophically fatal for the internal organs of vultures. Similar rapid declines have been seen in India, Nepal and several countries in Africa. In 2006, the Government of Pakistan banned the production and use of veterinary medicines containing “Diclofenac” to save the rapidly declining vulture population.

However, unauthorised use of diclofenac continues and poses a threat to this remarkable species. Following the constitution of an Asia Regional Steering Committee on Vultures by IUCN in 2012, the Ministry of Climate Change has notified “National Vulture Recovery Committee” in 2012 to improve the coordination for conservation of vultures at the national level.

Several negative effects of the decline in the vulture population are already evident. These include contamination of the soil and water, infection of other species and human beings, increase in the number of feral dogs which feed on the dead or rotting carcasses and become dangerous animals for human settlements.

Concerted efforts on local, provincial, national and regional levels will be required to prepare and implement an effective strategy for the protection and conservation of vultures.

With this goal, the volunteer-led, community-based development organisation known as Baanhn Beli (a friend forever), now in its 31st year of public service in the Tharparkar arid region, in collaboration with IUCN-The International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s largest environment organisation has launched the project for the formulation of the National Vulture Conservation Strategy. USAID is proving funding support to the project.

Over the next 10 months, a series of coordinated actions are planned with the active participation of village communities, local resource persons, relevant officials, technical international and national experts to identify specific measures at multiple levels that will conserve existing numbers and promote their safe breeding. Consultations will also be held with the national and international experts on similar initiatives taken in South Asia and Africa.

The launch ceremony in Nagarparkar is being followed up with an inception ceremony on September 7, 2015.


Save South African vultures, campaign

This video from South Africa says about itself:

1 September 2015

Exclusive footage of ‘Tuluver’ revealed.

To everyone who liked, hated, tweeted, debated, narrated, shared, posted, declared, noted, backed it, cracked it, wrote articles, deleted them, printed them, supported and celebrated; BirdLife South Africa and more so the Vultures, sincerely thank you.

From BirdLife:

New species or unnoticed plight?

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 04/09/2015 – 14:47

The beautiful, newly ‘discovered’ bird species, the Tuluver, is a digitally-altered image of a Lappet-faced Vulture. The fictitious bird is part of a campaign to draw attention to the plight of Africa’s vultures on International Vulture Awareness Day.

BirdLife South Africa’s carefully planned campaign prompted a social media storm, generating much debate as to the authenticity of the photo. Some soon twigged the image was part of a bold stunt by BirdLife South Africa in aid of International Vulture Awareness Day.

The big reveal was shown in an online video, where viewers could see the reverse transformation of the ‘Tuluver’ into a vulture. (As eagle eyes spotted, Tuluver is an anagram for Vulture.) The video culminated in a simple message: “If we can get this passionate about discovering new species, why can’t we get as passionate about losing them?”

The stunt, conceptualised by communications agency Utopia in partnership with BirdLife South Africa, aims to raise awareness of the often unappreciated and endangered vultures whose plight has gone unnoticed.

“Many people simply don’t know of the ecological value vultures have, and regard them as ‘ugly’”, explains Carl Cardinelli, Creative Partner of Utopia. “Our idea was to test the notion of whether people would notice vultures if they were beautiful or new and exciting. We created a new, fictitious bird, the Tuluver, with all the important characteristics of a vulture, except we made it more traditionally beautiful.”

Vital service providers

“Africa’s vultures are in serious trouble and they need urgent conservation attention and, for this reason, we decided to use a brave approach during our International Vulture Awareness Day awareness efforts”, explains Mark D. Anderson, CEO of BirdLife South Africa.

“We’ve already seen the decimation of three species of Asian Gyps vultures, which were brought to the brink of extinction following the use of a fatal drug called Diclofenac (commonly known as Voltaren). The absence of vultures subsequently led to an increase in feral dogs and, in turn, an increase in rabies, with an estimated cost to human health of approximately US$ 1.5 billion.”

“Science forms the basis to much of BirdLife South Africa’s work, so we realised that we could open ourselves up to criticism by announcing the discovery of a fictitious bird. We do however know that, in our important bird conservation work, awareness is immensely important, and therefore out-the-box type campaigns are occasionally necessary. We do apologise for any ‘feathers ruffled’, but we must be willing to be bold if we are to help ensure that Africa’s vultures do not follow the same path as their Asian cousins or the California Condor in North America,” says Anderson.

The stunt certainly got vultures noticed in what has been the biggest publicity campaign BirdLife South Africa has ever pulled off. “We were overwhelmed by the response of our initial post and, for example, we reached about 250,000 through our Facebook Page alone during the first 48 hours. Many more were reached through other media,” says Anderson. ”In the spirit of International Vulture Awareness Day, we hope people will share the video and help champion the real reason of our campaign.”

New threats

“More recently, a new contributor to the species’ decline in Africa is poaching. Poachers lace their victim’s remains with poison, providing one fatal last meal for vultures whose overhead circling might signal the poachers’ presence to rangers.”

“Other threats include a declining availability of food, inadvertent poisoning by livestock farmers, electrocution on electricity pylons and drowning in farm reservoirs”. “Sadly some people believe that eating the brains of vultures enables one to predict the outcome of the lottery or a football match”.

“Perhaps not as pretty as a panda or as regal as a rhino, their plight should be equally important,” says Anderson. “Vultures are nature’s ultimate clean-up crew, disposing of carrion and, in turn, preventing the spread of diseases such rabies, anthrax and botulism. They are vitally important to both the environment and humans alike,” he explains.

“Unfortunately many people do not like vultures and they regard them as ugly and dirty, which is of course not the case.”