Bad news for Egyptian vultures in Spain

14.07.2017
Poisoned Egyptian vulture

Spain holds the largest population of Egyptian vultures in Europe. Last counts estimate it at around 1.312-1.392 pairs, while the rest of continental Europe only holds an estimated 688- 1308 pairs (1000-2000 pairs are estimated to breed in the Asian part of Turkey). However, the recent news from different regions of Spain indicate that the Spanish population also suffers the same threats as the rest of the European populations.

Four Egyptian vultures have died in the last year due to collision with wind turbines in the area of Tarifa (Cadiz, Andalusia), in the southernmost region of the Iberian Peninsula. The last death, a breeding female, meant also the loss of the last breeding pair in this area, together with the loss of the female's chick, who couldn't be raised by the remaining male alone. Only 23 pairs survive in the whole region of Andalusia, where the population is down by half since the year 2000. Death by collision with the increasing number of wind turbines that are concentrated in the Strait of Gibraltar has become the second cause of unnatural death of the species in Andalusia and is main factor leading to extinction, along with poisoning. What's more, local environmental NGOs have denounced that the death of these four vultures evidences deficiencies in the environmental impact assessments of the wind farms of Tarifa and have alerted that these deaths are just the tip of the iceberg as thousands of birds die every year when colliding against windmills in the Strait, one of the most important migration routes between Europe and Africa.

Worrying news come also from Segovia (Castilla y Leon). WWF Spain denounces that 40% of the satellite tracked Egyptian vultures in the region have died from the illegal use of poison baits. During the period 1992-2013, the Autonomous Community of Castilla y Leon registered 1.908 poisoning events amounting to 4.343 poisoned animals. In an attempt to control this illegal practice, in 2015 the legal framework punishing this crime against fauna was toughened, and now fines range between 5.000 to 200.000 € as well as the suspension of the establishment or the activity where the poisoning event took place.

In a time when wind farms development is at its peak in Greece, reading of the consequences of such uncontrolled development in other countries such as Spain should come as a warning in order to make the necessary and correct planning to avoid the loss of the last remaining pairs of Egyptian vultures in Greece (monitoring in 2017 gave the same numbers as in 2016: only five pairs are left in the whole of the country!). The same applies for the issue of the illegal use of poison which has already been identified as the main cause of extinction of the species in Greece. Following the example of Spain, changes in the law should be made in order to ensure that harsher fines and punishments are applied for those still using this cruel and pointless practice.

 

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