Egyptian vultures in the sky and poison baits awaiting in the earth

01.04.2018
EV in Meteora. ©HOS/D. Vavylis

True to their annual meeting with us, the Egyptian vultures, also known as Cheese-makers, Turtle-eaters or Cuckoo's horses, returned once again to their homeland, the rocks of Meteora. Here they will spend six months to breed after spending the whole winter in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Always close to humans and strongly related to livestock breeding, the Egyptian vultures are considered to be a herald of Spring. Their arrival marks the improvement of the weather and richer pasturelands, which help the animals to produce thicker, fatter milk, perfect to make cheese, hence the local expression "Cheese-maker and fat markat’”.

For second year in a row for Greece, the first Egyptian vulture of the season was spotted in Meteora! It was our well-known "Crooked-tail" who achieved this first place, despite the strange tail that gives him his nickname. “Crooked-tail” has returned to Meteora every year for at least the six last years, although not every year has he managed to find a mate. Soon after, the last known pair of Egyptian vultures of the area arrived and went straight to check out their nest.

Even if the Egyptian vultures manage to live through the dangers they encounter during their difficult migration   journey, covering more than 5,000 kilometers to reach their breeding grounds in Greece, their struggle for survival continues: poison baits await! After the recent poisoning incident in the area of Vlachava with two poisoned Buzzards another one was added to the long list of poisoning events in the area: a stockbreeder from the area of Koniskos in Kalambaka informed the Hellenic Ornithological Society that in the area between the villages of Kalohori and Koniskos three foxes were lying dead, possibly poisoned, next to the main road. At noon of the same day, the HOS’ Local Antipoison Officer visited the area together with Kalampaka’s Forestry Service.

During the field investigation, a total of three foxes and two shepherd dogs were found dead with obvious signs of poisoning. Paraffin baits, most probably containing cyanide, were located close to the poisoned animals. Some were found already broken while two were found intact. The dead animals were buried in accordance with the Ministry of Rural Development and Food´s guidelines in order that the poisoned animals are not accessible to other animals thus preventing further poisonings. Reiterative surveys were conducted in the area, without new findings.

The motivation of this incident was probably the poisoning of specific shepherd dogs, as the location of the poison baits was just above the stables of two different stockbreeders. It is worth highlighting that the location of the poisoning incident is only 9 km from the only remaining Egyptian vulture nest in Meteora. In addition, in the past several years there have been repeated poisoning cases of shepherd dogs belonging to a particular stockbreeder in the area. Concerning the incident, a preliminary investigation is being carried out by Kalampaka’s Forestry Services.

The presence of the Egyptian vultures in an area where the illegal use of poison baits is frequent makes them extremely vulnerable and thus their survival in Meteora  hangs by a thread. Even a single bait can lead to the final extinction of the species, putting to waste the years of efforts invested for their conservation. Poison baits have brought this astonishing bird to the brink of extinction: Meteora was home to dozens of pairs only 25 years ago, while only a single pair survives nowadays and just five in all of Greece!

If you want to stop the Egyptian vulture from becoming a memory and continue to admire the "Cheese-maker" in the skies of Meteora, become an ally in our fight against poison baits. Tolerating this illegal practice makes you guilty too!

EV in Meteora. ©HOS/D. Vavylis
©HOS/D. Vavylis
©HOS/D. Vavylis
©HOS/D. Vavylis
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