September 2009: The Italian action plan aims to stop the population decline of Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) in Italy, because of the accompanying sharp decline in populations of the bird, a migratory vulture, across Europe and the rest of the world.
Despite its unfavourable conservation status, the species was only featured in the ‘endangered’ category of the IUCN’s Red List in 2007. This change in status has definitely contributed to the implementation of an action plan in Italy. This action plan revolves around a conservation strategy for the species across its area of distribution, building on the different lessons learnt in Italy. As a result, significant benefits from over 15 years of monitoring ex-situ reproduction and introducing young birds bred in captivity into the wild have shown that support initiatives are effective. The implementation of the action plan required 2 years of work during which basic information regarding the status and biology of Egyptian vultures and the dangers and threats to which they are exposed was collected. The ornithological meeting in Trieste which took place from 26th to 30th September 2007 and the workshop held in Madrid from 23rd to 24th June 2008, which explored implementing a European action plan, were key in the development of the Italian action plan. A meeting held in Palermo on 28th February 2007 sought to identify the threats that the species faces and prioritize conservation initiatives – processes that were a feature of the plan.
The action plan is intended to cover the areas that correspond to the species’ reproduction sites from the Apulia region, down through the southern regions of Basilicata and Calabria to Sicily. Measures are also planned in areas where the species has had a presence in the past and those that lie along its migratory path. In order to preserve the Egyptian vulture, it is clearly vital to focus efforts on breeding sites in southern Italy and Sicily and to develop the support programme for the population, which has been carried out on an experimental basis until now, as a means of reversing the negative demographic trend. Given the species’ weak breeding rate and adults’ long life spans, it is indeed clearly vital to reduce causes of death that most often have a man-made origin. Thus specific measures will be agreed in order to avoid poisoning (these initiatives will be aimed at people involved in hunting and shooting and will also counter the use of poisonous bait and encourage the sensible use of agricultural pesticides). In addition, the action plan legislates for the creation of feeding areas in the species’ breeding sites and sites along the birds’ migratory routes. Measures will also be taken to reduce the risks of collision with overhead cables (high-voltage power lines, antennae, cable cars) and wind farms. A further feature of the plan is promoting sensible and traditional agricultural practices in order to ensure that natural habitats are preserved and that they are of a good quality, as well as ensuring the long-term survival of Egyptian vultures.
The duration of the plan is 5 years, and will be followed by a status review to update the plan.
To find out more : download the action plan (in Italian)