Saving Asian vultures from extinction


This video says about itself:

Yula Kapetanakos: Asian Vulture Study

19 July 2012

Despite their grisly lifestyle, vultures play an important role in nature and are even important for protecting human health—but in southeast Asia several species are facing extinction from exposure to a drug used to treat livestock. Cornell graduate student Yula Kapetanakos tells us about her doctoral research on White-rumped Vultures in Cambodia.

She extracts genetic samples from dropped feathers and uses them to determine how many vultures remain and how closely related they are. Since the birds naturally shed these feathers, her work doesn’t affect the birds at all; and since she is able to accurately identify individuals through their genetic fingerprints, her counts have revealed population levels that exceed those estimated with previous techniques—good news for an imperiled species.

From BirdLife:

Major breakthrough in fight to save Asian vultures from extinction

By Martin Fowlie, Fri, 28/08/2015 – 09:32

A major step for the future of vultures in Asia has been announced by the Indian Ministry of Health. A ban of multi-dose vials of human formulations of diclofenac, which is responsible for the death of tens of millions of Asia’s vultures, has come into force with immediate effect.

The painkiller was banned from veterinary use in India in 2006 because of its lethal effects on vultures that feed on the carcasses of treated cattle and buffaloes, but human formulations of the drug have been illegally used to treat animals since then. The ban sees diclofenac production now restricted to human formulations in a single 3ml dose.

Chris Bowden, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and SAVE vulture programme manager said, “Despite diclofenac being illegal for veterinary use since 2006, human formulations have been made readily available in large vials by irresponsible drug companies, making it cheap and easy to use illegally to treat cattle and buffalo. This ban means that the large vials can no longer be manufactured and sold, making it more difficult to use illegally for animals and thereby removing it from the primary source of food for Asia’s vultures.  This is a huge step closer to bringing vultures back from the brink of extinction.”

Veterinary diclofenac caused an unprecedented decline in the three species South Asia’s Gyps vulture populations – White-rumped, the long-billed and the slender-billed vulture. Oriental white-backed vultures declined by more than 99.9% between 1992 and 2007, with the loss of tens of millions of individuals.

After years of campaigning by conservationists, the governments of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan banned veterinary formulations of diclofenac between 2006 and 2010. Recently, experts have recorded a slowing of Gyps vulture declines as a result of the bans. However, human formulations of diclofenac are still widely available and illegally used to treat livestock, the carcasses of which are the main food source for vultures in South Asia.

The RSPB is a member of SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction), which is a consortium of international organisations created to oversee and co-ordinate conservation, campaigning and fundraising activities to help the plight of South Asia’s vultures.  Since it was created, SAVE has requested pharmaceutical companies to cease production of the large vials of human formulations of diclofenac, which, at 30ml, are ten times the size of the dose required to treat a human (i.e., 3ml).  Only three companies voluntarily ceased manufacture ahead of this regulation, while more than 70 in India ignored the requests. Health professionals do not think that the banning of large vials poses any significant threat for the legitimate use of diclofenac in treating humans.

Vibhu Prakash, a scientist from the Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India) said, “Probably the most important step in vulture conservation since diclofenac’s ban for veterinary use in 2006, this latest announcement shows how much progress has been made. But there is still a job to do to make sure that safe alternative drugs are used.  Unfortunately, many alternatives, like ketoprofen, are not vulture-safe and more remain untested. In fact, there is only one vulture-safe alternative – meloxicam.”

Meloxicam is becoming more widely used now that the cost to manufacture it has been reduced by lifting its patent in South Asia.  However, other drugs known to be toxic or with unknown effects remain legal and are still being used.

Closer to home, an Italian company was, incredibly, given the green light to produce diclofenac for the Italian and Spanish veterinary markets, eight years after India’s first ban on the drug. Vultures inhabit both countries and feed on livestock carcasses, some of which will be treated with diclofenac. Vulture conservationists fear that this will cause declines in Europe’s vultures similar to that seen in South Asia. However, these fears have not been taken seriously by the European Medicines Agency who did not advise a European Union-wide ban on diclofenac.

Toby Galligan, RSPB Vulture Research scientist, said: “Again the government of India has made a strong decision to protect its vultures. Something that Europe has failed to do. It is truly shameful.”

SAVE is working to stop veterinary use of diclofenac by advocating vulture conservation to governments and raising awareness of alternative drugs that are just as effective in treating cattle to veterinarians and livestock owners.  While these issues are being tackled in situ, SAVE has established captive breeding populations of vultures at centres in India, Nepal and Pakistan. The birds will be released to supplement surviving wild populations, but only when it is safe to do so.

California condor nest webcam on the Internet


This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Male Condor #509 Visits Delivers Meal to Chick, August 21, 2015

24 August 2015

The male condor returned for an extended period, repeatedly feeding the youngster and resting for a while before leaving.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA writes about this:

August 26, 2015

Live From a California Condor Nest!

Our newest cam focuses on one of the most iconic and hard-to-observe species in North America: the California Condor. The cliffside nest cavity on camera in the Sespe Condor Sanctuary is home to a 5-month old condor (wing tagged #93), who is the offspring of a 21-year old female (#111) and a 6-year old male (#509). Learn more about the condors on cam.

This live stream is the product of a long-term collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology.

In 1982, only 22 California Condors survived world-wide. By spring of 1987, all remaining wild condors had been placed in captivity, thus beginning an intensive recovery effort among government agencies, zoos and other conservation groups to save the California Condor from extinction. In 1992, the Service began reintroducing captive-bred condors into the wild and with the help of public and private partners the total population has grown to approximately 430 birds, with more than half of the population flying free. Learn more about condor conservation.

This year, the California Condor Recovery Program celebrated a milestone in endangered species recovery with a record 19 wild condor nests in California. Biologists with the Service began using cams to remotely monitor the nests of condors in 2010, and this year we were able to help bring the live view to Bird Cams viewers everywhere.

The Condor Cam runs from dawn to dusk, and you can expect to see the growing condor chick stretch its wings and feet in unique yoga-like poses and interact energetically with its attentive parents during their nest visits … Off-camera, the persistent calls of Acorn Woodpeckers, Stellar’s [sic: Steller’s] Jays, and Common Ravens provide the auditory backdrop that helps make you feel like you’ve got your own cliffside seat.

Condor chicks can be very curious, and we’re excited to share their little-known world with you. We’ll be posting updates on the Condor Cam twitter feed and the Bird Cams Facebook page so you don’t miss anything important. Thanks for watching!

Saving Egyptian vultures, update


This is an Egyptian vulture video from Spain.

From BirdLife:

Saving the Egyptian Vulture: Mission still possible

By Stoyan Nikolov, Tue, 04/08/2015 – 10:06

Vultures may not be the prettiest of birds: They are often reviled for their looks, and are prone to illegal killing and poisoning, but it’s hard to argue against their usefulness.

The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), for example, feeds primarily on carcasses of dead animals. It is nature’s waste disposal service and plays a vital role in preventing the spread of diseases. This species of vulture is the smallest and the only migratory European vulture, listed as globally “Endangered” in 2007 due to a drop in population in most of its range.

n Europe, the species has declined by over 50% in the last 50 years, and in the Balkans, over 80% have been lost in the last 30 years.

Why is this happening

Most Egyptian Vulture populations are migratory. The eastern population of the species (breeding across the Balkans, Anatolia, Central Asia and the Middle East) travels thousands of kilometres to winter in Sahel Africa (a huge stretch of land that runs west to east across the continent, through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria and Sudan, among other countries) and Arabia.

In general, large-scale threats include: habitat degradation and food shortage through changes in land use; pastoral systems; collisions with windfarms; use of agricultural chemicals; veterinary and sanitary practices; and the control of feral dogs (in the fight against rabies in Africa). These affect vultures not only on their breeding grounds, but also along their migration routes and in wintering areas.

However, the most common cause seems to be accidental poisoning: vultures eat poisoned bait meant for predators like foxes and wolves, or consume dead poisoned predators and dead livestock treated with medicines that are harmful to them.

Electrocution is another major threat, especially in the wintering grounds in semi-desert areas, where there is a lack of places to roost, leading vultures to perch on electricity poles. A 30 kilometre-long line between Port Sudan and Red Sea coast – called the ‘killer power line’ is estimated to have electrocuted hundreds and perhaps thousands of Egyptian vultures since its construction in the 1950s.

The Port Sudan power line was considered the single most major known threat before being decommissioned last year. It was replaced by a new fully insulated and bird-safe line, thanks to the joint efforts of the UNDP/GEF Migratory Soaring Birds project, the Sudanese Wildlife Society, the BSPB (BirdLife Bulgaria), and the support of the Sudanese Government and electricity distribution and transmission companies.

A recent telemetry study in the Balkans also showed that about half of the juveniles (young vultures) die during their first migration, mainly because of sub-optimal navigation (some birds try to cross the Mediterranean sea), and in lesser extent because of direct persecution in Africa (due to their use in traditional medicine).

What is being done

The partners of the LIFE+ project to protect Egyptian Vulture in Bulgaria and Greece, The Return of the Neophron – the BSPB (BirdLife’s Bulgarian partner), HOS (BirdLife’s Greek partner), WWF Greece and RSPB (BirdLife’s UK partner), in cooperation with The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Raptors MoU (which promotes internationally coordinated actions to reverse population declines of migratory birds of prey throughout the African-Eurasian region) held a workshop this July in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Seventy conservationists, researchers and representatives from 33 countries attended to help develop an International Egyptian Vulture Flyway Action Plan. The plan will guide trans-continental cooperation and the implementation of conservation measures to ensure the survival of the Egyptian Vulture in the Balkans, Central Asia and the Caucasus, the Middle East and Africa, which shelter about 40% of the global population. In fact, in some countries like Oman and Yemen, the population is stable and even increasing.

BirdLife is also working with its partners to tackle the threats faced by African vultures, including the Egyptian. Watch this space to learn more about our African Vulture Campaign, come October.

Griffon vulture visits Vlieland island


This 3 August 2015 video, by warden Carl Zuhorn, shows a griffon vulture on a black pine tree on Vlieland island in the Netherlands. A carrion crow tries to drive the vulture away; but the big bird hardly pays any attention.

This video shows the same vulture, also on 3 August 2015, at the Vierboetsduin dune on Vlieland.

Griffon vultures are rare in the Netherlands. This individual has a yellow colour ring with number RO4. That proved that the vulture came all the way from Spain, where it had fledged last year. It had been on Texel island before going further north to Vlieland.

Vlieland warden Anke Bruin writes that the last news is that the bird was seen near Kroon’s polders on Vlieland. Maybe it will feed on dead gulls: in August, quite some young gulls die from natural causes.

Saving Egyptian vultures


This video says about itself:

Jackal vs. Ostrich Eggs vs. [Egyptian] Vulture

A three pound ostrich egg is a tough meal to crack – unless you’re a tool-using vulture with just the right technique.

From BirdLife:

Countries Meet to Tackle Threats to Europe’s Most Endangered Bird of Prey

Bonn / Abu Dhabi, 13 July 2015 – Government officials, NGOs and experts from over 30 countries met from 5 to 8 July in Sofia, Bulgaria, to develop a Flyway Action Plan for the Egyptian Vulture. For the first time more than 70 representatives from Africa, Asia and Europe came together to save one of the most endangered species of birds of prey on earth. The meeting was jointly organized by the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife Bulgaria) in the frame of the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron” (www.LifeNeophron.eu), and the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU), which was concluded under UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).

“International cooperation among the range countries is essential, if we want to halt the dramatic decline of Egyptian Vulture populations. The meeting in Sofia was an important step in this direction”, said Bradnee Chambers, CMS Executive Secretary.

Most Egyptian Vulture populations are migratory, with individuals flying up to 4,000 km from breeding grounds in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia to wintering grounds in Africa.  During their long and arduous journeys they face a range of threats, mostly associated with human activities. In recent years, massive and rapid population declines have been observed in virtually all parts of its range.

Nick P. Williams from the CMS Raptors MOU said:  “The international experts have identified key threats, which represents an important step forward to developing a Flyway Action Plan. The challenge now will be to engage with all the stakeholders, understand their motivations and then work together to find win-win solutions to implement the Plan and safeguard the species’.

A Declaration adopted at the meeting highlights critical threats including: poisoning, due to persecution of predators or inappropriate use of agricultural chemicals and the use of lead shot; insufficient amounts of accessible food caused by habitat degradation due to changes in land-use, intensification of agriculture and modern sanitation practices; electrocution on medium voltage power poles, as well as collision with power lines and wind turbines.

The Egyptian Vulture, by feeding primarily on carcasses of dead animals provides a natural waste disposal service and plays a vital role in preventing the spread of diseases such as anthrax and rabies. Due to their habit of cleaning up organic waste in the environment, the status of the species can be considered an indicator for healthy ecosystems.

An existing EU Species Action Plan for the Egyptian Vulture, covering European countries, has been in place since 2008.  An evaluation of the EU Plan commissioned by the Raptors MOU was presented at the meeting.  The new Flyway Action Plan for the Balkan and Central Asian populations will draw upon experience and adopt lessons learned.

The Raptors MOU, concluded under CMS, has worked with BirdLife Bulgaria to coordinate the development of the Flyway Action Plan. Signatory states to the Raptors MOU are due to meet 5-8 October 2015 in Trondheim, Norway, and will be asked to endorse the Flyway Action Plan.

Keep Europe’s vultures flying


This video about Africa says about itself:

Vultures Steal Hyena’s Lunch

A flock of big, tough Rüppell’s griffon vultures are more than a match for a pack of hyenas.

From BirdLife:

Keep them circling: a hymn to vulture beauty

By Lisa Benedetti, Wed, 17/06/2015 – 10:52

Big, bald and ugly, consumers of rotting flesh and bone, it’s not surprising that vultures have long been misunderstood creatures. Persecution and poisoning have pretty much wiped them out across most of Europe and elsewhere. But the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) and its partners are doing everything possible to make sure they keep circling high above us.

Vultures cast a dark shadow while flying in seemingly never-ending circles. Even if you don’t know much about birds, you probably know it’s a vulture. There are four species in Europe, Griffon, Bearded, Cinereous and Egyptian Vultures. The Egyptian is a globally threatened species, while Bearded and Cinereous Vultures are Near Threatened. Even though they may come across as creepy birds, they do an important and dirty job for us. They eat dead animals which helps stop the spread of some terrible diseases like rabies, which kills thousands of people in some parts of the world each year.

Over the last decades, the Vulture Conservation Foundation has been helping bring these threatened European vultures back to their historical distribution. Probably the most exciting part of their work has been reintroduction efforts where birds raised in captivity are released in strategic locations. Bearded Vulture reintroduction has been especially important because it’s the rarest vulture species in Europe (regionally Vulnerable in Europe according to the European Red List of Birds). It can live up to 40 years and were once found across Europe’s southern mountain ranges, from western Spain to the Balkans, but in many of these places they were exterminated. In the … mountains for example, Alpine people were once so afraid that it killed lambs and small children that a price was put on its head and there was a massacre. The last known naturally occurring Bearded Vulture was shot in the Alps in 1913.

Spanish people called this species the ‘bonebreaker’ (Quebrantahuesos) because this species doesn’t tend to eat meat. Instead, almost their entire diet is made up of bleached carcass bones. Yes, that’s right, bones. Like all vultures, the Bearded Vulture has a remarkable digestive system with gastric acids that are so corrosive they are able to digest rotting meat as well as bones. It can swallow and digest bones the size of a sheep’s vertebrae. And just to show off how smart they are for a bird, if the bones are too large, they fly and then drop them onto rocks below so that they shatter into smaller more manageable pieces. Another odd thing is that while they have black facial markings and black wings, the rest of the head, neck and body are a rich rusty orange. But this color isn’t natural, the feathers are white. For some mysterious reason they rub themselves with ferric oxides, and so give their feathers a different color.

In 1986, VCF released the first Bearded Vulture in Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria, and then began releases in France, Italy and Switzerland. In 1997, the first breeding pair raised a chick in the wild, and since then over 125 wild born vultures have fledged from parents that were raised in captivity. Because these vultures have responded so well, recent efforts have focused on bringing the species back to Spain in Andalucia. Just this year, they’ve released about a dozen Bearded Vultures: in Cazorla/Andalucia, the Grands Causses, the Austrian Alps and the Swiss Alps, and the latest four in the Italian Alps and Andalucia.

This May 2015 video is called Blimunda with the first wild bearded vulture to hatch in Andalucia for more than 30 years.

Because of the efforts of VCF, it’s partners and volunteers, more than 140 vultures soar again in the Alpine skies. Today, the total European population is about 580 to 790 breeding pairs; in the Pyrenees, Corsica, Crete, the Alps, Turkey and the Caucasus. But probably the greatest reward for the people that worked so hard to bring back this species back to Andalucía, and other places in Europe where it had vanished, is seeing released Bearded Vulture taking care of their first baby chicks in the wild.

Good griffon vulture news from Bulgaria


This video from Bulgaria is called The vultures in Eastern Rhodopes.

From Wildlife Extra:

Record numbers of Griffon Vultures reported in Bulgaria’s Rhodope Mountains

Vultures of many kinds are on the rise in Bulgaria’s remote mountains

The numbers of Griffon Vultures found to be nesting in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria has risen considerably, reports Rewilding Europe.

In February 2015, experts from Rewilding Rhodopes and its partner the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds/ BirdLife Bulgaria visited all the known nesting locations of Griffon Vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes.

Of the 75 registered Griffon Vulture pairs in the area they found that 55 were at an incubation stage and the rest were in the process of building their nests.

Most of the identified pairs consist of adult birds.

“The positive trend of increase of the population of the Griffon Vulture in the Eastern Rhodopes continues this year as well: five more pairs compared to 2014,” says Dobromir Dobrev from the Rewilding Rhodopes team.

“An interesting result of the monitoring is the large number of single, non-breeding birds along the Arda river valley.”

Griffon vulture was widespread in Bulgaria in the past but in the mid 20th century numbers decreased dramatically and by the beginning of 70s the species was considered extinct.

In 1978, a small colony with one breeding pair was found in the area of Studen Kladenets, Eastern Rhodopes.

Eight years later a Griffon Vulture colony of nearly 20 birds and three nesting pairs was discovered near the town of Madzharovo.

Shortly after, the first direct conservation efforts in Bulgaria started: monitoring, artificial feeding and work with local communities.

Gradually, the species recovered and its breeding population increased from about 10 pairs in 1990s to 70 in 2014.

Today, the Arda valley is the breeding area of one of the largest natural colonies of Griffon Vultures in the Balkans.

Maintaining and supporting the comeback of the vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes is one of the highlights of the recently started five-year rewilding activities financed by the Swiss-based Fondation Segré.

The Eastern Rhodopes is also the most important breeding site for the globally threatened Egyptian Vulture on the Balkan peninsula.

The last remaining breeding colony of Black Vultures in South-eastern Europe is situated nearby, in the Dadia forest on the Greek side of the border, and the birds regularly come over to the Bulgarian side of the mountains in search for food.