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Spanish vultures released to help threatened Cyprus species

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Cypriot conservationists released a batch of seven Spanish vultures into the wild to help replenish the native population, which is threatened with extinction, officials said Friday.

It is the second batch of Spanish vultures released into Cypriot nature to bolster the local population, numbering approximately 29 Griffon vultures, said conservation group Birdlife Cyprus.

These 14 vultures – the remaining seven will be released next week – arrived in Cyprus in March and remained in a special adaptation for six months.

The first batch of Spanish vultures, released in September 2022, has already successfully adapted to the conditions and integrated into the local population.

Of those 15 birds released last year, 11 have survived, one died due to poisoning, another due to inexperience to integrate, and two flew into power grid facilities.

Tracking devices have been attached to the birds to monitor their movements.

The first few weeks after their release are considered critical due to the young age of the birds and their unfamiliarity with the environment.

Birdlife said a Population Viability Analysis showed that without measures for managing and conserving Cyprus’ highly reduced vulture population, the species would disappear from the island in just 15 years.

“The priority for everyone working to save the species is to reduce mortality through specific actions targeting this issue,” said Birdlife in a statement.

It said the greatest threat to the species is the illegal placement of poisoned baits in the wild and the reduction of collisions and electrocutions in the electricity grid.

The vultures released were donated from Extremadura in Spain, which hosts 90-95% of Europe’s vultures, and in 2024, another 15 vultures are expected to arrive and be released.

Griffon vultures were once a common sight in Cyprus, and it is estimated that in the 1950s, the population numbered several hundred birds.