Preserving Cypriot griffon vulture population

The Gypas project is supporting Cyprus' environment by bolstering its griffon vulture population with 25 birds from Crete, as well as creating and upgrading reception and acclimatisation facilities on both islands. Numbers of griffon vultures in Cyprus had declined from at least 100 in the 1960s, to only 10-11 birds in the wild in 2011, whereas the vulture population of Crete exceeds 700.

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Accommodation of griffon vultures transferred to Cyprus from Crete at the Agios Ioannis acclimatisation cage in Paphos. ©  Michalis Probonas/NHMC Accommodation of griffon vultures transferred to Cyprus from Crete at the Agios Ioannis acclimatisation cage in Paphos. © Michalis Probonas/NHMC

" The strengthening of the vulture population in Cyprus will be a strong base from which to reach sustainable levels and to avoid the risk of extinction. At the same time, actions in Crete aimed at conservation and management will allow the Cretan population to remain healthy and viable. "

Nikos Kassinis, Senior Game and Wildlife Officer, Game and Fauna Service, Cypriot Ministry of the Interior

The partners carried out actions in both Cyprus and Crete. In Crete, they performed a study to determine the number, ages and sex ratio of vultures that can be sent to Cyprus annually, while another study examined the genetic characteristics of the island's vultures. A marking and telemetry programme was implemented for population monitoring, and the results were published along with related information material.

Vultures were captured, with the partners taking care not to capture adults during breeding season, and facilities were constructed for captured birds. They included a rehabilitation centre meeting all technical and veterinary requirements for keeping animals in captivity and reintroducing them into the wild.

New and upgraded facilities

In Cyprus, a holding cage and two feeders were built and an existing cage and feeder were upgraded to accommodate the vultures from Crete until they acclimatise and can be released. The feeders are close to the holding cages so as to attract native vultures. Allowing the caged birds to see those in the wild supports acclimatisation.

The Cypriot vulture population was monitored and a census taken, with the published findings providing a detailed record of the remaining vultures. Genetic analysis of the population was also performed.

Information material was produced and awareness-raising activities were undertaken as part of a campaign to inform groups such as farmers, hunters, students and political authorities of the need to protect vultures and boost the population. A project website and webcam were set up, and an international conference took place with participation of specialists from around Europe. Overall, this initiative created an estimated 18 jobs.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Gypas - Reinforcement of the Cypriot population of Griffon Vultures (Gyps Fulvus) with individuals from Crete” is EUR 710 369, of which the EU’s European Regional Development Fund is contributing EUR 568 295 from the Operational Programme “Greece - Cyprus” for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

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