The Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is the smallest of the four species of vultures in Europe, with a wingspan of 170 cm and a body length of 60 – 70 cm. Due to the rapid decline in its populations in most of its area of distribution, the species is included in the IUCN Red List as endangered; it is also strictly protected under the international Berne and Bonne Conventions, as well as under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The global population of the species is estimated to be between 21 000 and 67 000 individuals. Common around livestock breeding areas and frequent visitor of dumpsites since ancient times, the Egyptian Vulture is deeply associated with the culture of local communities and the protagonist of many legends and traditions, being often regarded as a sacred bird and a herald of spring.
Unfortunately, this emblematic species is the most rapidly declining bird of prey in Europe. In the last 30 years alone its population on the Balkans has dwindled by more than 80%. At present no more than 30 pairs live in Bulgaria; in Greece their number is less than 10. If this tendency continues, in 25 years the Egyptian Vulture could become totally extinct from the Balkan Peninsula.
The mission of the LIFE+ Project The Return of the Neophron (2011-2016) was to prevent the extinction of the Egyptian Vulture from Bulgaria and Greece. The measures and activities realized under the project focused on the main, and most critical threats to the species in both countries: the illegal use of poison baits, electrocution on unsafe power grid pylons, habitat destruction, disturbance and poaching.
The Layman's report shortly describes the main achievements of the project.