Cyprus Mail

Cyprus releases endangered vultures to boost population

birdlife, a veterinarian and members of wildlife crime police fit a griffon vulture with a gps tracking device, near the village of korfi
A veterinarian and members of wildlife crime police fit a griffon vulture with a GPS tracking device, near the village of Korfi, Cyprus

Conservationists in Cyprus released griffon vultures into the wild on Friday, in the latest attempt to boost a critically endangered population of the scavenger birds.

Once thriving, the number of vultures on the east Mediterranean island is the smallest in Europe as accidental poisoning or changing farming techniques have left them short of food.

vultures, griffon vultures, birdlife, terra cypriaFourteen vultures from Spain were released into the hills north of the city of Limassol on Friday, bringing the vulture population now to “about” 29.

Project coordinators BirdLife, the island’s Game Service, the Vulture Conservation Foundation and Terra Cypria released 15 griffons into the wild last year. Of those, 11 have survived.

Conservationists have in the past made several attempts to boost the vulture population, including importing birds from Crete. Surveys have shown that without timely intervention to address the causes of vulture deaths the birds could become extinct on the island within 15 years, the organisations said.

“Losing a vulture is frequent, and that is something that is particularly worrying,” conservationists said in a statement.

Considered a natural garbage disposal unit, vultures feed off dead animal carcasses, which is an effective way to prevent the spread of disease.

But they can die if they feed off a carcass which had itself been poisoned – the fox, considered a threat by some farmers to livestock, is frequently targeted. The use of poisonous baits in Cyprus is illegal but is known to occur.

A number of the birds were fitted with satellite trackers a day before their release on Thursday to monitor their movements.

All vultures released in the past year were donated by the Extremadura region of Spain, which hosts 90-95% of Europe’s vulture population. Another 15 vultures will arrive and be released next year.

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