Threats to Egyptian Vultures
The Egyptian Vulture is facing an important decline worldwide, and the Balkans have not been spared: from the hundreds of pairs historically present in the peninsula, about 70 pairs only are remaining, the population being victim of a 7% decline yearly for the past 30 years.
This rapid decline is hard to prevent as it is due to a complex combination of factors. Threats are multiple and differ from one region to another, putting pressure on the vultures on their breeding ground as well as along their migration routes.
Within the framework of the Egyptian Vulture NEW LIFE project, SCF is investigating the main threats vultures are facing on their wintering grounds, mainly in Niger, and particularly mortality from electrocution, accidental poisoning through the use of veterinary medicine for cattle or agricultural products (mainly Diclofenac) known to be fatal for vultures when feeding on contaminated carcasses, the or along the same line, the use of poisons, mainly strychnine, known for its high toxicity and used to control wild carnivores, or direct killing by poachers aiming at selling vulture parts for magical (or belief based) uses.
For all these issues the team is investigating in the field as well as among administrations so that information can be gathered that should enable identification of the priority level of each threat and so prioritize our actions.
As first results, even though the severity degree for every threat cannot be estimated with exactitude, poaching was found to be acute in the region, possibly the most important threat. Indeed, cases had already been registered (cf. Paschalis case) and the practice of this illegal activity has been confirmed by locals during interviews.
As for the other threats listed above, they seem unlikely to be responsible for decimating large numbers of birds. Indeed, the country has only few electric infrastructures, mainly concentrated around cities, minimizing, or even excluding EV electrocution possibilities. As for poisoning, more investigation is still needed but as far as we know no EV cadavers, evidence of an accidental death, have been found, relegating such threats to a second level.
Also, based on the previous results and simultaneously with further investigation and follow-up activities, preventive work will be conducted with the view to raise awareness among local communities. Their understanding and support is crucial to the long-term success of such conservation endeavour.