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Return of the Neophron - Urgent measures to secure survival of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Bulgaria and Greece

LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152


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

Contact details:

Contact person: Nada TOSHEVA
Tel: +359 2 9799 500
Fax: +359 2 9799 501
Email: nada.tosheva@bspb.org



Project description:

Background

In 2002, an action plan for the ‘recovery and conservation of vultures on the Balkan Peninsula and adjacent regions’ was drafted by national and international NGOs. The plan defined actions and encouraged the fostering of links between vulture recovery projects across the Balkan states. Greece and Bulgaria jointly host almost 70% of the Balkan vulture population (62-71 pairs). Importantly, the LIFE project represents one of the last opportunities to prevent the extinction of a surviving subpopulation of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in northern Bulgaria, which declined rapidly from 22 pairs in 2003 to just 8 pairs in 2010. The extinction of this subpopulation would effectively shift the distribution boundary for the species southwards by some 300 km.


Objectives

The goal of the Return of the Neophron project was to secure the survival and improve the conservation status of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the northernmost part of its European range, in 15 Natura 2000 network sites in Greece and 12 in Bulgaria. These sites host 76-93% and over 90% of the Greek and Bulgarian populations, respectively; the aim was to directly benefit more than 90% of these national populations. Project actions addressed the most relevant threats and problems for the conservation of the species, namely, high mortalities caused by poisoning and contaminated food, and direct persecution and accidents due to human infrastructure along the species’ migratory flyway from Europe to its wintering grounds in Africa.


Results

Return of the Neophron stabilised the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) population in Bulgaria and Greece. The project team established supplementary feeding sites, nest guarding operations and anti-poison dog units, and insulated electricity infrastructure.

The project team analysed Egyptian vulture population trends, distribution and mortality factors in Bulgaria and Greece, and toxicological, parasitological and genetic analyses from a total of 56 fledglings. Satellite tagging was implemented for 22 juveniles and 5 adults, which improved knowledge on migration routes and bottlenecks, mortality hotspots and wintering areas. The satellite telemetry data showed for the first time the entire flyway and wintering grounds of the Balkan population. The project team also analysed the vulture’s diet, and developed a habitat model for 87 breeding territories in Bulgaria and Greece to identify critical habitat features for territory selection and abandonment.

Over five years, the project provided additional safe food for about 50% of the breeding pairs in Bulgaria and Greece annually (about 500 feedings, totalling 10 tons of meat, per annum). The project team restored a supplementary feeding station (“vulture restaurant”) and set up two more in Greece, and produced guidelines for the establishment and management of supplementary feeding sites. The project’s nest-guarding programme, for 60% of the breeding pairs in Bulgaria and Greece, saved 7 juveniles and prevented 6 fatal disturbances. Fledgling success was increased by 6%. After 2013, nest guarding was continued with volunteers (average 25 each year). Over three years, the project operated two anti-poison dog units in Greece. These units found 48 poison baits and 39 dead poisoned animals, thus directly reducing the risk of poisoning for Egyptian vulture and other birds of prey. The project created a key stakeholders’ network against the use of poison (including farmers, livestock breeders and beekeepers). In 2016, there were two more Egyptian vulture pairs recorded, while the number of incubating pairs was the same, compared to 2014.

The project mapped 9 496 pylons and assessed the risk of electrocution in a 5 km radius around active nests in Bulgaria and Greece (using an algorithm for prioritising pylons for insulation developed during the project). A total of 4 663 pylons were also mapped in African wintering sites, particularly in Afar, Ethiopia (where the highest concentration of wintering vultures occurs). A total of 464 critically-dangerous pylons were insulated in 17 Egyptian vulture territories (397 pylons in Bulgaria and 67 in Greece), with the support of electricity distribution companies, which significantly reduced the risk of electrocution. A powerline in Sudan that kills dozens of Egyptian vulture annually (hundreds or even thousands since the 1950s) was disconnected thanks to a collaboration between BSPB, BirdLife Jordan and BirdLife Sudan.

In total, the project helped improve the conservation status of 96 000 ha of semi-natural grasslands within Natura 2000 network sites, to the benefit of Egyptian vulture and biodiversity generally. The project developed a National Species Action Plan for Greece, as well as a National Strategy Against Poison and a National Task Force. Importantly, the project mobilised the international conservation community for the elaboration of a Flyway Action Plan for Egyptian vulture. This complies with global treaties (e.g. CITES, Convention on Migratory Species). The project advanced the objectives of the Birds Directive, within which Egyptian vulture is a priority species for conservation, and the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

The project produced and distributed 86 types of information material, including a Bird Crime Handbook for Custom Officers, an annual calendar (2013-2017) and four mobile exhibitions. The project erected information boards at 27 sites. Its website, which included a video stream from a camera installed in an Egyptian vulture nest and the routes of satellite-tagged birds, received 114 759 visits from 183 countries. The project attended 24 conferences, and produced over 35 technical reports and scientific papers. It organised 104 training seminars/workshops (attended by 1 475 participants) that increased expertise and capacity (e.g. to detect and prevent bird crime) among stakeholders, such as farmers, foresters, police and customs officers, prosecutors, conservationists, and decision makers; and 80 public events (attracting over 67 000 people). As a result of project activities, Egyptian vulture became a well-known endangered species and perceptions changed positively, with the birds now considered as harmless and useful due to their cleaning services.

In terms of socio-economic benefits, the project created over 130 jobs and hired locally for various actions. In addition, more than 1 400 farmers submitted applications for subsidies under agri-environmental and Natura 2000 measures.

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


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Environmental issues addressed:

Themes

Species - Birds


Keywords

endangered species‚  dog‚  migratory species‚  poison‚  employment‚  voluntary work‚  population dynamics


Target EU Legislation

  • Nature protection and Biodiversity
  • Directive 2009/147 - Conservation of wild birds - Birds Directive (codified version of Directive ...
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 ...

Target species

 ACCIPITRIDAE Neophron percnopterus   Neophron percnopterus   


Natura 2000 sites

SPA GR1110002 DASOS DADIAS - SOUFLI
SPA GR1440005 ANTICHASIA ORI KAI METEORA
SPA GR1110009 NOTIO DASIKO SYMPLEGMA EVROU
SPA GR1130011 KOILADA FILIOURI
SPA GR1130012 KOILADA KOMPSATOU
SPA GR1440006 KORYFES OROUS KOZIAKA
SPA GR2120008 ORI PARAMYTHIAS, STENA KALAMA ÊÁÉ STENA ACHERONTA
SPA GR2120009 ORI TSAMANTA, FILIATON, FARMAKOVOUNI, MEGALI RACHI
SPA GR2130009 OROS TYMFI (GKAMILA)
SPA GR2130010 OROS DOUSKON, ORAIOKASTRO, DASOS MEROPIS, KOILADA GORMOU, LIMNI DELVINAKIOU
SPA BG0002012 Krumovitsa
SPA BG0002013 Studen Kladenets
SPA BG0002014 Madzharovo
SPA BG0002019 Byala Reka
SPA BG0002021 Sakar
SPA BG0002025 Lomovete
SPA BG0002029 Kotlenska planina
SPA BG0002038 Provadiysko-Royaksko plato
SPA BG0002044 Kamchiyska planina
SPA BG0002071 Most Arda
SPA BG0002073 Dobrostan
SPA BG0002106 Yazovir Ivaylovgrad
SPA GR1110010 OREINOS EVROS - KOILADA DEREIOU
SPA GR1140008 KENTRIKI RODOPI KAI KOILADA NESTOU
SPA GR1240007 ORI TZENA KAI PINOVO
SPA GR1310004 ORI ORLIAKAS KAI TSOURGIAKAS
SPA GR2130011 KENTRIKO ZAGORI KAI ANATOLIKO TMIMA OROUS MITSIKELI


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Beneficiaries:

Coordinator Bulgarian Society for the Protection ofBirds
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (PSPB) is the largest non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to biodiversity conservation in Bulgaria. Founded in 1988, it is a nationwide organisation, supported by a large team of volunteers and its members. BSPB is the Bulgarian partner of BirdLife International.
Partners Hellenic Ornithological Society, Greece World Wildlife Fund, Greece Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, United Kingdom

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Project reference LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152
Duration 01-OCT-2011 to 31-DEC -2016
Total budget 2,625,742.00 €
EU contribution 1,312,871.00 €
Project location Associated Bulgaria (BG)(Bulgaria Balgarija)

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Read more:

Press article Title: "High juvenile mortality during migration in a declining population of a long-distance migratory raptor" (via http://lifeneophron.eu/en/news-view/322.html) Author: Stephen Oppelet al Year: 2015 Editor: British Ornithologists’ Union No of pages: 13
Project web site Project's website
Video link Making of the Egyptian vulture graffiti (4')
Video link "Ασπροπάρης: Το μεγάλο ταξίδι για την επιβίωση" (7')
Video link "A mythical bird is disappearing..." (1'39)
Video link Project's video (3'30)
Video link "LIFE for the Egyptian vulture: International collaboration" (14')
Video link "Twenty 20-years old people talking about the LIFE program, Natura 2000 and the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds"
Video link Making of the Egyptian vulture graffiti (3')

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