By Maria Gregoriou
THE Game and Wildlife Service is planning to set free, by the end of the, year the first group of Griffon vultures brought in from Crete.
Since June 2012, a total of 15 vultures have been brought over to Cyprus in an attempt to increase the population. This is a joint effort between Greece and Cyprus.
The vultures are being kept in special holding cages constructed by the forestry department and the game fund, senior wild life conservation officer, Andreas Lyssandrou said.
They are kept in these cages so they can adapt to the Cypriot climate and environment. If they were immediately released when they arrived in Cyprus, they most likely would have returned to Crete.
“The birds are kept in groups in big cages and must stay there for some time before being set free into the wild,” Lyssandrou said.
Lyssandrou explained that if eight vultures were kept in a cage, for example, two birds would first be freed. After a short period of time, another two would be set free and then finally the remaining two.
“The method of releasing the vultures is done so that the first two will settle into the environment and we can track them. The remaining birds will hopefully find the first ones and settle in their new environment more easily,” Lyssandrou said.
Although the programme is going to plan authorities are still waiting to receive tracking devices for the vultures.
“The GPS systems will be specially designed for this purpose and we are still waiting for them. In the meantime, if the vultures stay in their cages longer than planned, no harm will come to them. The longer they stay in the special cages, the better they will adjust to their new circumstances,” Lyssandrou said.
He explained that the service was still researching the areas where the vultures could be set free. They want to make sure that the areas are safe from hunting or any other dangers.
The first seven vultures arrived in Cyprus in June 2012 and are kept in holding cages in Limnatis in the Limassol district.
The next five vultures arrived in December 2012. They are kept in Ayios Yiannis in Paphos.
The last four birds came to the island in January 2013 and were also placed in Limnatis.
The game services are also looking into bringing more Griffon vultures from Crete in the beginning of the New Year.
“Our goal is for the Griffon population to reach 30,” Lyssandrou added.
The project is financed 80 per cent by the European Union and 20 per cent by the National Game Funds of Greece and Cyprus.
The Griffon vulture population began to decrease in 1950, due to an increase in agriculture and poaching.