The project "LIFE Aegypius return - consolidating and expanding the Black Vulture population in Portugal and Western Spain", financed by the LIFE Program of the European Union (EU), aims to consolidate and expand the population of the Black Vulture in Portugal and Western Spain.
The Black Vulture colonies in this distribution area are currently very fragile, with low productivity and threatened by various factors. Major threats to the viability of the species in Portugal include habitat destruction by increasing forest fires, illegal use of poison, limited food availability due to health restrictions and reduced wild herbivore populations, consumption of food resources contaminated by veterinary drugs or lead (from hunting ammunition), human disturbance during the breeding season and death by collision/electrocution on power lines.
Scheduled to last until 2027 and funded at over 2.7 million Euros by the EU, this project is led byVulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), an international organization dedicated to the conservation of the European vulture species, and gathers as participants the Liga para a Protecção da Natureza (LPN), Palombar - Conservação da Natureza e do Património Rural, Herdade da Contenda, E.M., Sociedade Portuguesa para o Estudo das Aves (SPEA), Associação Transumância e Natureza (ATN), Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR), Associação Nacional de Proprietários Rurais, Gestão Cinegética e Biodiversidade (ANPC) and the Fundación Naturaleza y Hombre.
The long-term goal of the project is to ensure the favorable conservation status of the Black Vulture in Portugal by consolidating, improving and accelerating the ongoing natural recolonization of the species, improving its habitat and feeding conditions, while limiting threats and developing national capabilities.
In the short term this project will double the breeding population in Portugal, currently 40 pairs distributed over 4 colonies, to at least 80 pairs in 5 sites. It is also intended to increase the breeding success in Portugal from 0.38 (very low for a viable population) to 0.5.
It is hoped that this project will lead to an improvement in the conservation status of the Black Vulture in Portugal from Critically Endangered to Endangered by the end of 2027.
Actions to be taken include habitat management to prevent forest fires in current colonies and improving food availability through the establishment and integration of new unfenced feeding areas in Portugal. Work will also be done to reduce the risk of lead poisoning by ensuring a transition to lead-free ammunition on several hunting properties, and significantly reducing disturbance around colonies.
To promote the expansion of its distribution area, the establishment of new colonies and the connectivity between them, ensuring a solid and sustainable expansion of the species in Portugal, a careful management of the habitat around existing colonies and potential new colonies, both in Portugal and in nearby Spanish areas, will be carried out.
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