A gaggle of 5 griffon vultures has been tagged with GPS transmitters within the Western Iberia rewilding space in northern Portugal. By shedding new mild on the birds’ foraging behaviour, the info collected from the transmitters will assist the restoration of pure meals chains within the space and underpin the continued comeback of this magnificent species.
The foraging behaviour of griffon vultures within the Western Iberia rewilding area in northern Portugal is about to change into loads clearer, due to the tagging of 5 birds with GPS transmitters. With tagging carried out by members of the native rewilding staff and companions at first of July, that is the primary time that the realm’s griffon vulture inhabitants has been monitored in such a manner.
The transmitters fitted to the birds – that are largely breeding adults – are additionally geared up with an accelerometer, which reveals when they’re resting, flying or foraging. Information equipped by the units will present invaluable perception into the place the vultures go to feed and what forms of carrion they feed on.
Trophic chain restoration
The vulture tagging was carried out as a part of the five-year “Scaling Up Rewilding in Western Iberia” undertaking. Kicking off in 2019, and funded by a generous grant from the Endangered Landscapes Programme, this may see Rewilding Europe (by Rewilding Portugal) and native companions additional develop a 120,000-hectare wildlife hall within the Better Côa Valley.
A necessary aspect of rewilding the valley is the restoration of trophic chains. In the mean time native populations of each griffon and Egyptian vultures depend on a community of synthetic feeding stations (so-called “vulture eating places”) supplied by organisations similar to ATNatureza. One of many goals of the undertaking is to extend the supply of pure carrion within the space – thereby restoring the so-called Circle of Life – by encouraging Portuguese authorities to permit native farmers to go away domesticated herbivore carcasses within the discipline, and by boosting the native inhabitants of untamed herbivores, similar to roe deer.
“The tagging will permit us to see whether or not the vultures are feeding totally on the carcasses of home livestock, or additionally on wild herbivores, and the way usually they go to vulture feeding stations,” says Carlos Pacheco, a raptor professional, extremely skilled tagger and undertaking supervisor working for ATNatureza, a Rewilding Europe accomplice in Western Iberia. “This may in the end allow us to enhance the administration of meals sources for the birds and assist the restoration of trophic chains.”
Rising to the problem
The griffon vultures had been tagged within the SPA Vale do Côa (Côa Valley Particular Safety Space) and the close by Douro Worldwide Nature Park. On days within the discipline, members of the vulture tagging staff needed to get up at 4am, as a way to attain the seize website in time to set traps. Extremely clever, griffon vultures are sometimes very cautious and gained’t land at a website the place they assume one thing is out of the extraordinary. This not solely meant the staff needed to put together the location nicely, however usually needed to look ahead to hours because the birds circled overhead.
On a number of days the persistence of the tagging staff was rewarded and the vultures finally did land. As quickly as a vulture was caught in a entice the staff sprang into motion, safely immobilising the hen and inserting a hood over its head to maintain it calm. As soon as the vulture was fitted with a transmitter it was instantly launched, none the more serious for its expertise and able to start contributing worthwhile information.
Monitoring of raptor species in and across the Better Côa Valley reveals griffon vultures have made a dramatic return to the Western Iberia rewilding space because the 1990s. There are estimated to be round 200 breeding pairs within the undertaking space, which incorporates the SPA Vale do Côa, Serra da Malcata Nature Reserve and Douro Worldwide Nature Park. This comeback could be additional supported if particularly authorised Portuguese farmers selected to go away the carcasses of their domesticated herbivores within the discipline.
In 2001, after the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow illness”) disaster, the European Union prohibited the abandonment of livestock carcasses in such a manner. This had a big impact on vulture populations, which relied on these carcasses within the absence of untamed herbivores.
Working for change
Immediately the next leisure of EU laws has allowed livestock carcasses to as soon as once more be left in nature (beneath particular circumstances), however not all European international locations have chosen to implement this alteration. Till very lately, this meant that farmers had been allowed to go away carcasses in massive swathes of the Spanish countryside, but their Portuguese counterparts had been compelled to take away them. This disparity was graphically highlighted in current analysis, which confirmed GPS-tracked griffon and black vultures on the Iberian peninsula almost exclusively shunning Portuguese territory.
Current modifications to Portuguese rules imply that the carcasses of pigs, sheep, goats and horses (completely from farming) can as soon as once more be left exterior of synthetic feeding stations, in areas which the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF) considers vital for vulture conservation.
“Going forwards, the Rewilding Portugal staff and companions will work with nationwide authorities to additional develop an intensive community of farmers within the Côa Valley and Douro Worldwide Nature Park who’re authorised to go away carcasses within the discipline,” expains Sara Aliácar, a conservation officer connected to the Rewilding Portugal staff who took half within the tagging.
Sponsored by Mossy Earth, the tagging was carried out by Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATNatureza), along with members of the Rewilding Portugal staff. As scientific collaborators, CIBIO-InBIO and Movetech supplied the transmitters and also will assist with information evaluation and the dissemination of outcomes.
One other group of griffon vultures will probably be tagged in direction of the tip of the “Scaling Up Rewilding in Western Iberia” undertaking. This could spotlight what affect modifications within the availability of meals have had on the birds’ behaviour and distribution.