LIFE Northern Bald Ibis - Reason for Hope - Reintroduction of Northern Bald Ibis in Europe

LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143

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Contact details:

Contact person: Johannes Fritz
Tel: 436765503244
Email: life@waldrapp.eu

Project description:


The northern bald ibis is listed as ‘critically endangered’, with only one remaining colony in Morocco (consisting of around 200 adults) and a few individuals in the Middle East. A further colony with up to 100 individuals exists in Birecik, Turkey. Though these birds are a remnant of a former migratory colony that is now semi-captive, they are a valuable genetic backup for the Middle East birds and a resource for reintroductions. In Europe, the species became extinct about 400 years ago, mainly due to human persecution, possibly worsened by climate change (Little Ice Age) and the Thirty Years' War.

The former breeding range covered major parts of the northern Alpine foreland, parts of the Alps, as well as the southern Alpine foreland. It is documented that the birds departed in autumn and returned in spring, but their historical wintering areas are unknown. However, based on knowledge of the historical European breeding range and the migration pattern of comparable species, it is probable that one wintering area was along the west coast of Africa. Migration through Italy or even a wintering range in Italy seems probably as well. In 1997, a first European sedentary, partly free-flying, northern bald ibis colony was established in Upper Austria. In the following years, further sedentary colonies were established in Rosegg, Austria, and in Andalusia, Spain. The two Austrian semi-captive breeding colonies consist of up to 50 birds per colony and are self-sustaining during the vegetation period. These colonies strongly indicate that in Europe suitable habitats for free-flying birds are available.


The main objective of the project is the reintroduction of the critically endangered northern bald ibis into Europe and the establishment of a pattern of migration that will ensure the survival of the species. The work is based on a ten-year feasibility study that led to the creation of a first small migratory breeding group. Nine partners in three countries will establish migratory breeding colonies in Germany and Austria, with a common wintering area in Tuscany. The majority of birds will be electronically monitored, while genetic screening will optimise the genetic variability. Juvenile birds will be provided by sedentary free-flight and zoo colonies.

Monitoring and management will reduce losses from illegal hunting. In the medium term, a ‘Reason for Hope’ campaign consisting of conservation and demonstration actions across Europe, with a major focus along the migration corridor, is also expected to reduce losses and raise awareness of European migratory bird species in general. Various public relations activities, particularly with European zoo partners, and media coverage will raise awareness about the need to conserve this species, as well as the importance of sustainable land use and the value of biodiversity.

Expected results:

  • Three self-sustaining, migratory northern bald ibis colonies with a common migration tradition; by 2019, the colonies will consist of a minimum of 119 birds, a figure greater than the minimum viable population size;
  • Permanent electronic monitoring of up to 100 birds by the use of a specially developed GPS system. Live tracking via internet will allow the public to follow the majority of the birds;
  • Implementation and development of innovative methods and techniques for conservation, monitoring and scientific assessment, thus offering substantial benefits for other conservation and research projects;
  • A substantial increase in public awareness (measured by regular surveys) of the northern bald ibis and the threats it faces;
  • A sustainable reduction in bird losses due to illegal hunting in Italy (by 25% from 2014 to 2019), as a result of the public awareness activities and a campaign against illegal hunting;
  • Greater awareness of the relationship between sustainable agriculture and the conservation of biodiversity.
  • A continuation of the consistently high international media coverage (at least five TV presentations, 25 media articles and one scientific paper per year).



Environmental issues addressed:


Species - Birds


endangered species‚  introduction of animal species‚  migratory species

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Förderverein Waldrappteam
Type of organisation NGO-Foundation
Description The non-profit organisation, Förderverein Waldrappteam, which was founded in 2002, aims to carry out and support scientific projects for the conservation and reintroduction of the northern bald ibis (Geronticus eremita). It raises around €120 000 annually, mainly from private donators and NGOs. To date, this money has been used to carry out a Europe-wide feasibility study on the reintroduction of migratory northern bald ibis colonies, in collaboration with a range of international partners (zoos, NGOs, government organisations and universities). The beneficiary has also supported northern bald ibis conservation activities in the Middle East and Morocco, as well as education activities in Europe (e.g. a digital-interactive exhibition in 2009). The beneficiary currently has 30 members.
Partners Alpenzoo Innsbruck-Tirol, Austria Stadt Burghausen, Germany Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Germany Konrad Lorenz Forschungsstelle-Core Facility der Universität Wien, Austria Parco Natura Viva Garda Zoological Park s.r.l., Italy Schönbrunner Tiergarten GmbH, Austria Tierpark Rosegg, Austria Zoo Salzburg, Austria


Project reference LIFE12 BIO/AT/000143
Duration 01-JAN-2014 to 31-DEC -2019
Total budget 4,364,376.00 €
EU contribution 2,179,759.00 €
Project location Wien(Österreich) Kärnten(Österreich) Oberösterreich(Österreich) Salzburg(Österreich) Tirol(Österreich) Bayern(Deutschland) Trentino-Alto Adige(Italia) Veneto(Italia) Friuli-Venezia Giulia(Italia) Emilia-Romagna(Italia) Toscana(Italia)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: Article-Paper "Energy Expenditure and Metabolic Changes of Free- ...
Video link "Flight training with Northern Bald Ibises, country of Salzburg, Austria, July 2015" (2')


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