Although it was shot at, authorities on Tuesday were carrying out tests to determine the exact cause of death of one of the few Griffon vultures on the island whose carcass was found at Zapalo beach in Episkopi, Limassol.
Conservation group BirdLife Cyprus said an x-ray showed the presence of pellets but a necropsy was also underway to confirm whether it was a shooting that killed the bird or if it died of poisoning, the most frequent cause of death of vultures in Cyprus.
BirdLife said preliminary tests showed the bird most probably died from the shooting but more tests were underway to check for evidence of poisoning.
“This x-ray alone, however, paints a gloomy picture for the species,” BirdLife said. “Why was it even shot at? With only around 20 vultures left on the island, each death comes at a great cost for the species’ survival.”
The bird, CAJ, was born in Crete in 2011 and brought to Cyprus the following year as part of the GYPAS project to boost the island’s dwindling population.
BirdLife said measures were needed urgently to address the problem or risk losing the entire vulture population.
Where there used to be at least 100 vultures in the 1960s, a population census in 2011 estimated there were only six to eight birds living in the wild in the south-west, according to www.gypas.org, the GYPAS project’s website.
Numbers diminished in the past because vultures were hunted, killed by poison aimed at foxes and dogs, disturbed during breeding, or because of intensified farming methods.
They were declared an endangered species in 2003 and protected by law, but with only one or two couples breeding every year, even if their little ones did survive, the Cypriot birds were still vulnerable to diseases from inbreeding, as well as climate change.