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Restoration of connections between the Alpine and Pyrenean populations of bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) (LIFE GYPCONNECT)
Start date: Sep 1, 2015, End date: Nov 30, 2021 PROJECT  ONGOING 

Background The conservation status of the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is listed as vulnerable on the European IUCN Red List and endangered in France. Before vulture reintroductions started, the Alps represented a huge barrier separating the Pyreneo-Iberian populations and those of the Balkans. To bridge the distance between the populations of the western Alps and the Oriental Pyrenees, it is essential to establish a new core population of bearded vultures and to favour an exchange of populations with a view to forming a true European meta-population. Objectives The LIFE GYPCONNECT project aims to develop new vulture populations in the Department of the Drôme and the Massif Central, thus creating a connection between the two existing populations, currently confined to the Alps and the Pyrenees. The project’s main objectives are to: Strengthen the population of bearded vultures by creating core populations in the Drôme and the Massif Central; and Facilitate bird movements between the Alps and the Pyrenees and thus enhance exchanges and genetic diversity of bearded vulture populations. The project team comprises raptor conservation experts, managers of the electricity grid networks and sociologists. Specifically, the team plans to: 1. Coordinate a captive breeding programme and to reintroduce vultures on specific sites; 2. Enhance the availability of food resources; 3. Reduce existing threats; 4. Draw up a communication plan to increase the public’s awareness and to spread results; and 5. Regularly assess the impact of the project and to develop a strategic implementation plan. Expected results: 1. Establish new core populations by: a. Setting up several sites (2-3 new ones) where captive vultures can be released; b. Releasing up to four vultures per year throughout the project’s lifetime; c. Having at least two couples established in the area by the end of the project; and d. Enhancing the exchange of birds between different core populations in the Alps and the Pyrenees from the second year of the project onwards. 2. Enhanced available food resources by setting up different feeding places. 3. Improve peacefulness and security of vulture sites by: a. Isolating the sections of the electric network considered to be dangerous for the birds; b. Mapping favourable vulture areas and integrating these in the relevant SRCAE (Energy, Air and Climate Regional Scheme); c. Managing poison threats; d. Testing lead-free ammunition; e. Taking care of unhealthy birds through a safeguard network; f. Reducing sources of disturbance by enhancing awareness actions; and g. Securing vulture releasing sites. 4. Improved knowledge and the monitoring of the reintroduction programme by: a. Analysing demographic and spacial data; b. Modelling population dynamics; c. Producing indicators and a technical guide to monitor the populations; and d. Producing at least one scientific publication.
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