Egyptian Vulture Conservation


The smallest of the four vulture species found in Europe, the Egyptian vulture also holds a sad primacy as the most endangered of the four. That is why Prague Zoo is pursuing and developing a project to help vultures in their South European homeland.

Egyptian vulture, photo: Tomáš Adamec Egyptian vulture, photo: Tomáš Adamec

Scavengers play the important role of Nature’s health policemen who come and clear away animal carcasses. However, in today’s Europe, the food that vultures find frequently constitutes a time bomb: sometimes they find poisoned bait illegally set for wolves and jackals by farmers, while at other times they find remains of animals that, having been shot by hunters, contain poisonous lead from lead ammunition. And as if that were not enough, cattle carcasses often contain drug residues, that can be lethal for vultures. Also, during their annual migration from Europe to Africa and back again, many vultures die when they collide with power lines or wind turbines – or they are illegally caught.

Prague Zoo has, during the last ten years, bred more Egyptian vulture chicks than anyone else in Europe, and it is in charge of the European studbook for the Egyptian vulture and the European Endangered Species Program (EEP) for this species. It also sits on the advisory board of the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), which strives to protect all four of Europe’s vulture species. Among other activities, it engages in awareness-raising work those European countries where the vultures live to stop the use of poisoned baits.

The Balkan population of Egyptian vultures is on the IUCN Red List as “critically endangered” – which stands in striking contrast with the fact that the Balkans are the starting point of one of the two main migration routes of this species. A third of the entire Balkan population – just under 30 adult pairs – lives in Bulgaria. That is why Prague Zoo has, since 2013, been working with Green Balkans, a Bulgarian conservation organization, to develop a project whose long-term goal is to reintroduce captive-bred Egyptian vultures into the wild in the Balkans. In order for this goal to be reached, breeding institutions must successfully breed these vultures to ensure that there are enough young birds suitable for release. That is why, in the first phase of the project, Prague Zoo financially supported the effort by Green Balkans to build breeding aviaries for Egyptian vultures and is currently working on the expansion of Egyptian-vulture breeding programs to other zoological gardens. Under the direction of Prague Zoo, permanently handicapped birds rescued from the wild whose injuries make it impossible to release them back are placed in our partner zoos. There, they become a valuable reinforcement to the breeding efforts.

Prague Zoo’s efforts to help conserve vultures in the wild are not limited to Bulgaria. As part of the European Endangered Species Program for Egyptian vultures, which Prague Zoo manages, we participated in the August 2015 transport of four juvenile Egyptian vultures to Italy: they were going south to be released into the wild along with two other specimens from CERM, a Tuscan breeding station. Two of the four vultures had hatched in Prague Zoo, the third was from Zlín Zoo and the fourth from the zoo at Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. Gravina di Laterza, a deep limestone canyon found in the Italian region of Apulia, was chosen as the release site. The vultures were first tagged with transmitters (so they could be monitored in the field) and then transferred to a pre-release niche, found in the canyon – a net-covered recess in the rock where vultures stay for several days before their release to acclimate to the new conditions. During the acclimation period in the rocky niche, the birds are given food and water from above in such a way as to make sure they do not come into contact with people. Throughout the preparations for their release, the birds are monitored by a camera. At the moment of release, the net covering the recess is pulled off and the vultures are free to fly away.

Where do our funds go?

Every time you visit our zoo, you contribute two Czech crowns towards endangered species conservation. To help conserve Egyptian vultures, we have provided 16,000 euros for the construction of three aviaries at the Green Balkans rescue center in the Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora. These aviaries will serve multiple uses: they will house injured or otherwise handicapped wild-born birds and will also be used to put together potential breeding pairs and for breeding itself. The birds raised at the center will be released into the wild.

Prague Zoo is also providing 7,500 euros for the construction of a vulture feeding site in Bulgaria. The site will provide vultures with the necessary food when they are looking after young. Moreover, when they arrive in Europe after their long migratory flight from Africa, it will serve as their first stop, where they can rest and replace lost energy. Only a first-rate network of such feeding sites can lower the risk of vulture death caused by poisoned bait.

Actual Weather

PRAHA Česko Khovd Mongolsko Yaoundé Kamerun Agra Indie Stara Zagora Bulharsko Jáva, Indonésie Ochrana ptáků v Indonésii Luang Prabang Laos