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Alimoche Fuerteventura - The conservation of guirre in Spas of the Fuerteventura island

LIFE04 NAT/ES/000067


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

Contact details:

Project Manager: Agustín CASTAÑEYRA PERDOMO
Tel: +34928859152
Email: domingoinipro@hotmail.com



Project description:

Background

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), known in the Canaries as "guirre", is suffering a decline in its European distribution range that is particularly acute in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Southern France. In Spain, the species has declined by some 70% over the past two decades. However, some 80% of the European population is still found there. Similar worrying figures have been recorded for the recently recorded (2001) Canarian sub-species of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus ssp. majorensis), the southernmost population of the vultures in the EU, which deserves particular attention as it presents clear distinctive features when compared with the Continental species. Once widely present on the Canary Islands, research today show this vulture is only found on the island of Fuerteventura (25 areas were recorded in 2001 and 38 in 2006), and a residual population (2 areas) remains on the island of Lanzarote. The main threats for the small population of c.150 individuals (2006) are the risk of collision and electrocution from power lines, illegal poisoning and/or intoxication through ingestion of lead (bullets) used in hunting, other illegal practices for control of species competing with human activities, and disturbance from a growing tourism activity. In the future, the implementation of stricter health controls over carrion could also cause an endemic lack of food sources for the vultures.


Objectives

The project aimed to improve the conservation status of the Canarian Egyptian vulture by halting its downwards population trend, improving its breeding success and preserving its habitat in the best possible conditions within the SPA network on Fuerteventura. The introduction of corrective measures for the island’s power lines would seek a net reduction of the mature mortality by 50%. Surveillance of nesting would be reinforced to avoid disturbance in critical periods. The aim of increasing the birds’ breeding success by 20% tackled. Surveillance and awareness-raising measures would be implemented with the aim of reducing the illegal use of poison and looking at finding an alternative to lead ammunition. Finally, to avoid the potential threat during famine periods, three controlled feeding sites would be created with the collaboration of local livestock breeders. Additionally, a regional recovery plan for the sub-species would be drawn up and implemented. This would help to ensure the continuity of the conservation actions after the project ended.


Results

One of the most important achievements of the project was the drawing up and approval of the recovery plan for the Canarian Egyptian vulture population on Fuerteventura, as this is the best guarantee of the recovery and conservation after-LIFE. Thanks to the project’s efforts, the sub-species is now legally protected and public authorities will have to fulfil certain obligations undertaken by their approval of the plan.

In addition, all the other project objectives were met: Non-natural mortality among the population, caused by dangerous power lines (collision, entanglement and electrocution) was reduced by almost 90% thanks to the modification of the most dangerous points of the Fuerteventura’s high voltage network. As well as these correction works, an intensive campaign to identify particularly dangerous black points was carried out.

Currently, there are three controlled feeding sites for the birds, which were created during the project period. Food availability is increased in arid areas reducing the need for the vultures to travel long distances in search of food. Moreover, the method is also favouring the re-colonisation by guirre population of former sites as well as the colonisation of new sites.

There are six specimens of guirre that make up the genetic stock that will help to protect the genetic identity of the species. Two couples are housed in the Wild Fauna Rehabilitation Centre at Tafira (Canary Islands) and two female individuals are housed in the Estación Biológica in La Oliva (Fuerteventura) in a new cage installed thanks to a collaboration agreement signed in partnership with the government of the Canary Islands. As yet, the couples have not produced any young.

An intensive campaign to raise awareness of the indiscriminate use of poison was also carried out by the project team. Interestingly, while at the beginning of the project, electrocution due to power lines was the main threat to the vultures, by the end of the project intoxication had become the principle cause of death. In line with the awareness-raising activities, surveillance actions were also carried out by wardens from the Island Council of Fuertventura. Among other responsibilities, the wardens were in charge of controlling human activities near the birds’ breeding sites and gathering areas, of checking the areas around power lines in search of injured birds, and of tracing and removing poisoned baits, etc.

The beneficiary also investigated a possible non-toxic alternative to using lead ammunition. In the final phase of the project, the team gained the active support of the Government of the Canary Islands. This enabled a plan to be drawn up for the substitution of toxic ammunition with collaboration of all concerned parties.

Other awareness-raising activities carried out by the project team included the organisation of events targeting different stakeholders, sectors and the local population. Publicity material was also produced to reinforce talks, courses and other education actions. Of particular note is an attractive an informative DVD about the project and a book on the species. The project website continues to provide information about project implementation.

Finally, the LIFE project included technicians from the Doñana Biological Station (EDB) – who have been studying and recording the population of the vultures on the island of Fuerteventura since 1998. This important work continues, and can also provide ongoing verification of the effectiveness of the LIFE work. The research shows that the number of breeding areas on Fuerteventura has increased from 29 (2005) to 38 (2008) – i.e an annual increase of almost 10%. During the LIFE project, a total of 48 different areas have been occupied by the species. The total guirre population of Fuerteventura in 2008 is estimated at 190 individuals. From 1998 to present, 156 of the 231 ringed specimens have survived, 37 have died (21 during the project period) and 38 have disappeared.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report (see "Read more" section).


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Species - Birds


Keywords

energy supply‚  island‚  environmental impact of energy‚  protected area


Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)

Target species

 Neophron percnopterus     


Natura 2000 sites

SPA ES0000042 Dunas de Corralejo e Isla de Lobos
SPA ES0000097 Betancuria
SPA ES0000101 Lajares, Esquinzo y costa del Jarubio
SCI ES0000096 Pozo Negro
SCI ES7010033 Jandía


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator Fundación Canaria Instituto de Investigación y Ciencia de Puerto del Rosario
Type of organisation Research institution
Description The beneficiary is the Science and Research Institute of the Puerto del Rosario Foundation.
Partners Cabildo de Fuerteventura, Spain UNELCO-ENDESA, Spain

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Project reference LIFE04 NAT/ES/000067
Duration 01-SEP-2004 to 31-AUG -2008
Total budget 829,937.00 €
EU contribution 414,968.00 €
Project location Canarias(España)

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Read more:

Project web site Link to the project's videos (short and longer versions)
Project web site Project's website (ES/EN)
Publication: Layman report Layman report (ES/EN)
Video link Project video (9')
Video link "El guirre: Un documental de sensibilización" (27')

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