Conservationists announced on Wednesday that they were hopeful over the future of Griffon vultures, after finding a nest belonging to birds brought from Crete to bolster the dwindling local population.
In a joint news release, BirdLife Cyprus and the state Game Fund, said three active nests were found this year, one near the vulture feeding station in Paphos, in an area where a significant colony of the species used to exist in the past.
“The nest belongs to birds which were brought from Crete through the Gypas project,” the statement said. “The other two nests were located at Episkopi Cliffs, which is where the largest colony of the species is found in what is the most stable breeding site of the species in recent years.”
While a healthy number for the species is estimated at around 200 individuals for Cyprus, in 2011 the population reached a critical level when only between six and eight birds were recorded.
At that point, conservationists imported 25 birds from Crete, as part of the Gypas project.
“Unfortunately, between autumn 2015 and winter 2016, seven vultures were found dead due to poisoning, and 2016 was a year when no nesting was recorded,” the statement said.
“The existence of three active nests this year is therefore very promising and signals a legacy of hope from the Gypas project.”
Vultures die from poison baits placed by farmers and others to kill foxes and wild dogs that attack livestock. Coupled with reduction of available food due to the reduction of traditional free-range grazing and disturbance during the nesting period, it dealt a severe blow to the species.
“With the species reaching reproductive maturity at three to four plus years, and laying only one egg each time, it will take several years for the Cyprus population to recover. For this reason, all necessary measures must be taken to protect the species, with particular emphasis on combating the illegal use of poisons in the Cypriot countryside, which is one of the main threats currently faced by vultures and other big birds of prey on our island.”