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LIFE04 NAT/ES/000056

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Juan MONTES VALVERDE
Tel: +34953220102
Fax: +34953220102

Project description:


The bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is one of the most endangered vulture species within its range in Europe. It is still relatively common, but mostly decreasing, across Asia and Africa. It is a highly specialised and territorial scavenger, associated with mountainous areas with steep rocky cliffs for breeding.

The European population has suffered a strong decline during the last two centuries, with only around 120 breeding territories across the whole of the European Union. The species has disappeared from many of the mountains where it used to live (the Alps - where it has been recently reintroduced, the Balkans, the Carpathians, in Cyprus and Sicily). It also disappeared from Andalusia, Spain, in the 1980s, mainly due to the illegal use of poison, collisions with power lines, lack of feeding resources, shooting and hunting.


The project's overall aim was to establish a viable population of bearded vultures in the Southern Iberian Mountains. The project area encompasses the SPAs (i.e. special protection areas for birds within the Natura 2000 network) of the eight provinces of the region of Andalusia, together with the neighbouring SPAs of the provinces of Ciudad Real and Albacete (Castilla-La Mancha) and Murcia.

The actions were mainly carried out in the Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas SPAs, where a reintroduction programme was planned. In order to meet the overall goal, the necessary preparatory actions for guaranteeing the success of the reintroduction would be implemented. Once undertaken, the release of individuals would start.

Preparatory actions included the drawing up of viability studies and the identification of the best areas for ‘hacking’ (a reintroduction method in which young birds are reared and released at designated sites) and for locating supplementary feeding stations. A naturalised population would be created with the planned release of at least 25 young bearded vultures over a five-year period. All of these would be from the captive breeding centre, located in the natural park of Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas.

Controlling the use of poison throughout the large project area was one of the core project actions and would involve close monitoring of the production, distribution, sale and presence in the field of poisons, in coordination with the environmental law enforcement bodies. At the same time, a large awareness raising campaign would be carried out in order to increase the knowledge about the species in the area and to involve and engage all relevant stakeholders in its conservation.


The project’s main goal – i.e. the reintroduction of the bearded vulture in the Southern Iberian Mountains – has been achieved, with the release of 14 birds. Although this is below the numbers forecast at the start of the project, the beneficiary reasoned that it would be more effective to reduce the overall numbers and focus instead on the survival of the newly released individuals. Unfortunately, three of these vultures died from different causes. But overall, the programme was very successful: 11 of the released vultures survived and continue to be monitored through GPS and sightings.

Preliminary studies (looking at an area of over 800 000 ha) enabled the selection of the two most suitable areas for ‘hacking’ in Andalusia and the adjacent provinces. A thorough study of actions that can adversely affect the bearded vulture was also carried out. The preliminary studies and the methodology used (including bio-indicators and site surveys) have been published in various manuals (available, together with the project’s layman’s report, from the project website). Methodologies used for captive breeding and hacking proved effective, and monitoring was carried out of all the released birds. The captive breeding centre was particularly fruitful – resulting in 19 chicks and helping to establish the Cazorla Centre as an important European genetic pool for the species.

Good contacts were also established by the LIFE team with national managers, which have encouraged a lively and useful exchange of information concerning the conservation of the species. Moreover the beneficiary also actively promoted networking and sharing of information on a pan-European level. As a result, a scheme between European groups targeting the conservation of the species has been established.

Other threats – from the overhead electricity power lines, illegal use of poison etc – were also addressed. These included:

  • Drafting and implementation of an Action Plan against poison in collaboration with the regional administration;
  • Creation of a network of municipalities against the use of poison baits, supported by some 31 towns;
  • Agreements over hunting stewardship on over 32 000 ha;
  • Launching of legal procedures concerning illegal poisoning;
  • Mapping of potential risk electricity power lines in areas of reintroduction and proposal of modification measures for electricity suppliers and for the administration;
  • Actions to reduce the use of lead ammunition (hunting stewardship agreements).

In addition, a broad and widespread awareness campaign was carried out. This enabled the project team to gain the confidence and support of relevant stakeholders and local people for this species in their territory. Moreover, the bearded vulture is now considered a positive natural feature of the area. The strong collaboration gained with environmental agents, farmers, shepherds and hunters is helping to strongly introduce the message on activities that adversely affect the bearded vulture, especially poison use (several land custody agreements have been signed).

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  introduction of animal species‚  protected area‚  information network

Target species

 Gypaetus barbatus     

Target Habitat types

  • 5110 - Stable xerothermophilous formations with Buxus sempervirens on rock slopes (Berberidion p.p.)
  • 5210 - Arborescent matorral with Juniperus spp.
  • 5220 - Arborescent matorral with Zyziphus
  • 5330 - Thermo-Mediterranean and pre-desert scrub
  • 6310 - Dehesas with evergreen Quercus spp.
  • 6420 - Mediterranean tall humid grasslands of the Molinio-Holoschoenion
  • 8130 - Western Mediterranean and thermophilous scree
  • 8210 - Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation
  • 8310 - Caves not open to the public
  • 9230 - Galicio-Portuguese oak woods with Quercus robur and Quercus pyrenaica
  • 9240 - Quercus faginea and Quercus canariensis Iberian woods
  • 9260 - Castanea sativa woods
  • 92A0 - Salix alba and Populus alba galleries
  • 92D0 - Southern riparian galleries and thickets (Nerio-Tamaricetea and Securinegion tinctoriae)
  • 9340 - Quercus ilex and Quercus rotundifolia forests
  • 9520 - Abies pinsapo forests
  • 9530 - (Sub-) Mediterranean pine forests with endemic black pines
  • 9540 - Mediterranean pine forests with endemic Mesogean pines
  • 9560 - Endemic forests with Juniperus spp.

Natura 2000 sites

SCI ES6110003 Sierra Maria - Los Vélez
SCI ES6130002 Sierra Subbética
SCI ES6160007 Sierra Mágina



Coordinator Fundación Gypaetus
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Gypaetus Foundation is a non profit-making organisation responsible for the conservation and recovery of endangered species in Andalusia. It also promotes the preservation, dissemination and enhancement of the natural heritage and landscape of Andalusia. It defends the vital role of role of rural communities to shape and sustain biodiversity. The foundation was established in 2000 by the Consejería de Medio Ambiente de la Junta de Andalucía (environmental administration of the Andalusia region). Members include the Unicaja bank, the Ecotecnia company, the municipality of Cazorla, the Andalusia public TV Channel and Fungesma (public company).
Partners Junta de Andalucía, Spain Andalusian Hunters Federation, Spain


Project reference LIFE04 NAT/ES/000056
Duration 01-NOV-2004 to 31-OCT -2009
Total budget 1,649,250.00 €
EU contribution 1,236,937.00 €
Project location Castilla-La Mancha,Andalucía,Murcia


Read more:

Leaflet "Proyecto LIFE-Acciones para la reintroducción del ...
Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Conservation Plan After-LIFE Conservation Plan
Publication: Guidelines-Manual "Manual para la conservación preventiva del quebra ...
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Pedagogical tool "VUELA! Cuaderno didactico para la Reintroducción ...
Publication: Proceedings Conclusions of the "II. Congreso Internacional sob ...
Video link "Acciones para la reintroducción del quebrantahuesos en Andalucía" (14')
Video link "Acciones para reintroducir el quebrantahuesos en Andalucía" (15')
Video link "La Sierra incompleta" (52')
Video link "La Sierra incompleta" (52')
Video link "La Sierra incompleta" (51')


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version