Death of four female Bearded Vulture blocks the reintroduction of the species in Andalusia.

la mirada del quebrantahuesos The fact that the four Bearded Vultures who died this year -shot down, poisoned and two through natural causes- were females will set back the mating of the five specimens still alive -all males- for more than five years. The Bearded Vulture, threatened by extinction in Spain, of which little more than two hundred specimens survive in the Pyrenees, does not reach sexual maturity until six years of age.; therefore the mating, if any, of the five males that have survived in the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas, will not take place before 2015. Moreover the first forming of pairs will take place only if again new females be released next spring, these survive during the six years they need to gain sexual maturity and moreover, their reproduction be successful in order to get the species settled again in Andalusia where it became extinct in 1986.

The possibility to release adult females is no option in this program of reintroduction given the scarcity of adult specimens that survive in Spain. The first chicks released in 2006 in the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y las Villas -the largest protected area in the Iberian Peninsula, with over 200.000 hectares- were three males: “Tono”, “Libertad” and “Faust”, brought over from various European centers for breeding in captivity. They were released from a cave in the valley las Espumaredas near the village of Pontones where they were fed until they learned to fly. This controlled release makes the chicks asociate the place of release with the place where they were born and thus they consider it the zone where they should form pairs and make nests. These three Bearded Vultures have had a normal development these two years and have made flights of nearly a thousand kilometers even to the Pyrenees. In the spring of 2007 two more chicks were released: “Pontones”, a male , and “Segura”, a female, who appeared to have died from being shot past April in the neighbouring mountainrange of Castril (Granada). Of the four chicks released in spring 2008: “Cazorla”, “Acebeas”, “Lézar” and “Castril”, only the last, a male, survived, as the other three, females, died in the course of 2008. Acebeas appeared to have died of natural causes near its place of release in August ; Cazorla died at the end of October after having swallowed poison in Castril (Granada) and the remains of Lézar were found near the site of release past 2nd of December; its autopsy revealed that it had died of peritonitis.

The program of reintroduction of the Bearded Vulture in Andalusia is one of the most ambitious in Spain -together with those of the Lynx, of the Iberian Imperial Eagle, of the Bear or the Wolf- started in 1995 with funds amounting to more than six million euros of which 1,67 million was contributed through a program LIFE; with part of it the costs have been paid of the first center of breeding in captivity of the species in Spain, situated in the valley of Guadalentín in the Natural Park of Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas. Only the population of Bearded Vulture in the Pyrenees is considered a stable population, consisting of some more than two hundred specimens and apart from in Andalusia there are also attempts for its reintroduction in the Picos de Europa. This bird has -together with the Black Vulture- the largest wingspan of birds that fly in Spain as it has almost three meters from one wingpoint to the other; it owes its name (in Spanish: “breaker of bones”) to the fact that it feeds on marrow that it extracts from bones, the largest of which it breaks by dropping them from great height.

Source: Terra actualidad EFE.

Monday, 12th of January, 2009

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