Some 15 Griffon vultures from Spain have been released into the wild to help replenish the island’s population, which dropped to around 10 birds because of deliberate poisoning, conservationists said.
The team working on the LIFE with Vultures CY project said the vultures were released in two groups after being brought over a year ago from Spain.
The large birds had remained in a constructed cage to get acclimatised to local conditions before their release.
The Spanish vultures are expected to feed and roost in the same areas as the Cypriot population, eventually intermingle with the sparse indigenous vulture population.
Cyprus’ Game and Fauna Service has attached GPS transmitters to all the vultures to monitor their movements and well-being.
Conservationists say restoring the local vulture population to its former numbers remains a long-term goal, with the most pressing issue to eradicate the biggest threat to the species, which is the use of poison bait in the wild.
Actions to strengthen the Griffon vulture population are implemented through the EU “Life with the Vultures” project and recommendations of a study that analyses the population’s viability.
Based on this study, the bird species would disappear from Cyprus in about 15 years if nothing was done to eliminate the poisoning threat and replenish the population with vultures from abroad.
Another 15 vultures from Spain will be released in Cyprus next year.
The birds were a donation from the local authorities in Spain’s Extremadura region, which hosts 90-95% of Europe’s population of the bird.
The Griffon vulture, which can grow up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) long and have a wingspan of 2.8 meters (9 feet), feeds on animal carcasses.
The “LIFE with Vultures CY” program aims to recover and conserve the Golden Vulture in Cyprus.
The program has a budget of €1,375,861, with a duration of 4 years (2019 – 2023) and is co-financed (60%) by the LIFE program, the EU financial tool for the environment.