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Conservation of Black and Griffon vultures in the cross-border Rhodopes mountains (LIFE RE-Vultures)
Start date: Jan 1, 2016, End date: Jun 30, 2021 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Background European black vultures (Aegypius monachus)and griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) are considered as umbrella species whose conservation will also substantially benefit other raptor species sharing the main diet of carrion as well as breeding and foraging habitats. These species are also an indicator of healthy, intact, natural habitats. The conservation status of all species of European vultures, however, is vulnerable as a result of poisoning, limited food availability, collisions (wind farms and power lines) and electrocution (electricity pylons). Moreover, most breeding populations are isolated and most species have low reproduction rates. It is difficult to ensure the long-term survival of these species in Europe. Only around 2 125 breeding pairs of black vultures remain in four EU countries (France, Germany, Portugal and Spain). Around 97% are found in Spain. The single remaining colony left in the Balkans is located in the National Park of the Dadia-Soufli-Lefkimi forest (Dadia NP) in the Rhodope Mountains in Greece, close to the border with Bulgaria. The black vulture population here has around 28 pairs. Objectives The overall objective of the LIFE RE-Vulture Project is to reduce acute threats to black and griffon vultures and thus allow them to recover in the Bulgarian/Greek cross-border area of the Eastern Rhodope Mountains. Expected results: The project’s expected results are as follows: Increased population of black vulture to 35 pairs and griffon vulture to 80 pairs; Increased knowledge of mortality factors and threats affecting the vultures through toxicological research and GPS tagging of more than 40 vultures; Increased understanding of migration and dispersal of black and griffon vultures by mapping the movements of tagged vultures in a database; Reduced disturbance, poisoning and direct persecution of the vultures through training of local authorities, anti-poison dog teams and targeted awareness-raising campaigns; Increased food availability for the vultures through the reintroduction of 50 red deer and 200 fallow deer in at least three SPAs along with six small locally operated feeding places; Reduced mortality risk of vultures from electricity infrastructure by identifying all dangerous electricity poles in the project Natura 2000 network sites (SPAs) in Bulgaria, insulating more than 120 power poles and the mounting of bird diverters on 2.5 km of power lines; Increased awareness and support from key stakeholders, including local businesses, by organising excursions for stakeholders and community leaders to vulture-watching sites, supporting entrepreneurs to improve their vulture-based business, media campaigns, an interactive website and a youth education programme at the Vulture Centre in Madzharovo; and Extended networking with conservation organisations through an international workshop on supplementary vulture feeding, vulture threats and relevant EU directives.
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