The survey of the Egyptian vultures breeding in the transboundary Douro canyon started last week, with staff from the ICNF, the Portuguese nature conservation agency, and from Arribes del Duero Natural Parks surveying a section of the cliffs from the river. They reported that all birds are now on their breeding territories, although the breeding season seems to be a bit delayed, because of the unseasonal cold that affected that part of the Iberian Peninsula in the end of March.
Recently colleagues working in the project LIFE RUPIS were alerted by a local inhabitant to a strange occurrence – a dead Egyptian vulture that “had fallen dead from the sky” after a fight with another raptor. The witness is a reliable acquaintance, and a quick investigation on the spot have discounted the possibility of a poisoning incident.
The BSPB (Bulgarian Societey for the Protection of Birds) website publishes a study on the mortality of the Egyptian Vultures monitored by telemetry as part of the Life Return of Neophron project.
Since 2010 28 birds have been tracked by GPS tag. At the end of 2016 21 juveniles out of 23 died as well as 2 adults out of 5.
The VCF website informs us of the creation of a canine anti poison brigade in Portugal. The dogs used are two Belgian Mallinois sheeps dogs, each one with their own police trainer, and will be deployed soon in the area of the project, that includes the Special Protection Zone of the International Douro and the Rio Águeda Valley.
Large avian scavengers are among the most vulnerable vertebrates, and many of their populations have declined severely in recent decades. To help mitigate this marked reduction in abundance, supplementary feeding stations (SFS; colloquially termed “vulture restaurants”) have been created worldwide, often without consideration of the scientific evidence supporting the suitability of the practice.
Teams from SPEA, Palombar and ATN are bringing the LIFE RUPIS to the local school classes in Portugal.
The youngest students (3rd and 5th grades) are presented with the sounds and images of the birds, including real-size models. The older kids (8th to 11th grades) are given a game of questions that needs to be solved in teams.
The results of the exhaustive breeding census of Egyptian vultures in the transboundary Douro canyon – done last summer by teams from the ICNF, the Portuguese nature conservation agency, and from the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, revealed that there are 135 pairs of Egyptian vultures along the International Douro and its tributaries (121 pairs confirmed and 14 possible) – while this is still one of the densest populations in Iberia, the survey revealed that at least 15-20 pairs disappeared since 2010.