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‘Huge blow’ to vulture population after three found dead

vultures
With the deaths of the three vultures, the total population is thought to be just eight (Silvio A. Rusmigo)

The discovery last week of three dead vultures in Paphos is “a huge blow” to the species’ population in Cyprus, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday by the game and fauna service and BirdLife Cyprus.

The island’s vulture population has fallen from 15-20 in 2021 to just eight in 2022, it said.

The press release said that on May 3 and 4, an adult vulture and two chicks were found dead in nests in Paphos.

Named Icarus, the adult bird was around 4-5 years old and had been fitted with a GPS tracker in November 2019 in Limassol. It was found dead last Tuesday by members of the game service in the Ayios Ioannis area in Paphos after an alert from the forestry department.

icarus silvio a. rusmigo
Icarius had been fitted with a GPS tracker in November 2019 (Silvio A Rusmigo)

The next day, a wider search resulted in the discovery of two dead chicks in nests, with no signs of their parents in the area.

“Canine teams were immediately dispatched to locate any poisoned bait and patrol the areas where birds fitted with trackers have moved in the past few days, while the ‘Life with vultures’ team, in close collaboration with SBA police are watching the cliffs in Episkopi to ascertain the presence of vultures and confirm nests are functioning as normal.”

Necropsies were performed on the dead birds, whose deaths are thought to be related. Poisoning seems to be the most likely scenario, which is expected to be confirmed through toxicological tests.

The statement added that the incidents are being investigated by the authorities to determine any foul play, which would call for “zero tolerance” for the culprits, who “must be made an example of to prevent any further losses to the already extremely endangered and vulnerable population of vultures on the island”.

This is already happening, it pointed out, as the latest Cyprus vulture census, performed on Wednesday, shows a 50 per cent loss from 2021 to 2022, from 15-20 birds to just eight.

“This is a huge blow to the Cypriot vulture population, with the loss of birds that were in the process of reproduction, but also a huge setback to the efforts of the ‘Life with vultures’ conservation project.”

The statement stressed that placing poisoned baits is illegal and punishable by up to three years in prison and/or a fine of € 20,000, while in case of substantial damage to a protected species, the law provides for a penalty of up to ten years in prison and/or a fine of €500,000.

Finally, the game and fauna service and BirdLife Cyprus called on the public to contact the game and fauna service with any information.

 

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