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Arrivals from Spain to boost Griffon vulture population

The rare Griffon vulture (BirdLife Cyprus)

Twenty-five Griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) will arrive in Cyprus from Spain this coming Friday as part of the ‘Life with Vultures’ programme’s efforts to avert their extinction and strengthen their extremely diminished population on the island.

The project is a collaboration between BirdLife Cyprus, the Game and Fauna Service, Terra Cypria and the Vulture Conservation Foundation, and aims to tackle the main threats facing the Griffon vulture through a targeted campaign and a number of actions.

According to the project website, it includes “actions against the use of poison baits, actions to counter collisions with overhead powerlines as well as actions to increase feeding opportunities for the provision of safe supplementary food to the vultures”.

Through the project, 25 Griffon vultures will be flown from Spain to be released in Cyprus to boost the island’s small population of 18-20 birds of this species, which cannot multiply substantially without human intervention, project coordinator BirdLife said in a press release.

It added that without targeted conservation actions, Griffon vultures have been predicted to disappear from Cyprus in the next 15 years.

After their arrival on Friday afternoon, the birds will be acclimated for three to four months in an enclosure specially designed by the Game and Fauna Service before they are released into the wild.

Transmitters will be placed on all the birds to monitor their movements and to ensure a timely rescue intervention in case a bird is in danger.

Spain was chosen because it hosts 90-95 per cent of Europe’s vultures, and more specifically, a population of 30,000 Griffon vulture pairs.

“Introducing birds from other areas to conserve threatened wildlife is a widely accepted practice worldwide,” BirdLife said, adding that the practice has been proven effective in Cyprus as most of the birds that make up the current Griffon vulture population were brought to the island from Crete as part of previous conservation efforts in 2012-2014.

Life with Vultures is a four-year project that started in 2019 and is set to end in 2023. It has a budget of €1,375,861 and is funded by 60 per cent by the EU’s LIFE programme.

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