Poisoning - threat №1 to the Egyptian Vulture

05.04.2016

The report “Assessment of major threats in Natura 2000 sites for the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Bulgaria and Greece (2012-2015)” aimes to assess the major threats for the Egyptian vulture in all 27 project sites of the NATURA 2000 network, and also to evaluate the effect of the project on the mitigation of the species’ major threats.

In total nine threats for the Egyptian vulture were identified as the most significant in the project sites. The most frequent and severe threat was illegal poisoning present in 26 of the 27 studied NATURA 2000 sites (96%). Food shortage (i.e. decrease of livestock and closing dump sites) was considered the second most frequent threat, identified in 12 SPAs (44%), followed by disturbance, in 10 SPAs (37%). Habitat heterogeneity loss, in 9 SPAs (33%) and wind farms, in 2 SPAs (7%) were considered as major threats only in Greek project sites, while illegal shooting identified in 8 SPAs (30%) and nest robbing, in 6 SPAs (22%) were recognized as major threats mainly in Bulgaria.

During the project and mainly in Greece, there was strong evidence of poisoning incidents. There were reported cases of five dead Egyptian vultures, as well as other vulture species, namely griffon and black vultures. In Bulgaria the scale of this threat is not well known, but is considered also high due to many human-predator conflicts in areas where the species is present. On the contrary, in Bulgaria there are several recorded cases of nest robbing (eggs or chicks) and illegal shooting of different species. Lack of food is caused either by decrease of available livestock in the area or by closing of dump sites. Disturbance is originated mainly from touristic activities while habitat heterogeneity loss is due to forest expansion as a consequence of decrease in traditional livestock breeding practice.

Since the beginning of the project in 2012, many actions have been implemented to mitigate the threats for the Egyptian vulture in Bulgaria and Greece. Several of them (anti-poison dog teams and task force in Greece, supplementary feeding, public awareness, etc.) focus on the problem of poisoning. Others, such as national wide schemes for supplementary feeding, either using feeding stations or individual feeding at nest sites, aimed to increase food availability and safe food (decreasing the risk of poisoning). Nest guarding aimed to prevent disturbance, poaching and nest robbing, while insulation of dangerous powerlines around the active Egyptian vulture nests decreases the risk of electrocution. Thanks to the project, some of the major threats were mitigated locally, but their roots are so deep and the magnitude so large (e.g. poisoning is still considered the top threat for the species in both countries), that to effectively secure the future of the Egyptian vulture in the Balkans long-term work and strong law enforcement is needed.

Find the report: “Assessment of major threats in Natura 2000 sites for the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Bulgaria and Greece (2012-2015)” here.

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