Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna

Update from Spy Vultures Campaign

German Zoopark Görlitz- Zgorzelec has joined in FWFF Spy Vultures Campaign to obtain more GPS tagged birds to spy for illegal poisoning on Balkans. Spy vulture has been invented as a term by FWFF explaining an innovative tool to track illegal poisoning in Balkans. Spy Vulture Network works across international borders to tackle the issue of illegal poisoning.

3 Griffon vultures found poisoned in Greece in June

The bird, 1H-Wild, had been caught in the Kresna Gorge in July 2017 and fitted with a transmitter, and has been tracked since, it  has reported some alarming behaviour.

Immediately after capturing and tagging, 1H-Wild moved to Pindus/Central Greek Mountains, where it spent the rest of last year´s summer. In the winter 2017/2018 it moved to Eastern Rhodopes. In April 2018 it flew to Akarnanika (SW Greece) and moved between Akarnanika and Messolonghi several times. Then on 13.05.2018 the bird moved from Akarnanika to Messolonghi and from there directly to Central Greek Mountains. 1H-Wild was last recorded visiting the central Greek mountains near Agrafa. The data from the GPS transmitter suggest that 1H-Wild fed in the area and moved some 5km away, but then stopped moving completely.

Recently Hristo Peshev, from the FWFF, visited the area and found 1H-Wild, almost fully decomposed.

As poisoning was suspected the alarm was raised and the Hellenic Ornithological Society anti-poison dog unit, along with a warden from the Tzoumerka National Park, went recently to the relatively remote area to try to find more birds. Near the site where 1H-Wild was last recorded the team unfortunately discovered two more dead Griffon vultures, both untagged and unringed birds. Near the site of these two vultures was the carcass of a calf that was half eaten, and we believe that this was used as bait as nearby there was a plastic bottle with white powder residue.

The remains of all three birds, and the plastic bottle, were collected, and were frozen, so that proper toxicological analysis could be done to establish exact cause of death.

These deaths demonstrate the need to work across international borders to tackle the issue of illegal poisoning.

The threat to vultures

Poison is the main threat to vultures worldwide, as identified in the Vulture multi-Species Action Plan, a comprehensive strategic document that highlights priority for action for the conservation of 15 species of old world´s vultures, and that was recently adopted by the signatories of the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS). FWFF attended the important workshop for the conservation of vulture populations in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East took place from the 25th to the 29th of October 2016 in the National Park of Monfragüe (Spain).

In the area where this latest poisoning incident occured, south west mainland Greece, the remote mountains provide superb feeding opportunities for wolves and bears, which are making a remarkable comeback in the area due in part to abandonment of traditional livestock practices. The free ranging cattle that have replaced the goats in the area, provide a rich supply of food for bears and wolves. SW mainland Greece where the latest poisoning occurred may be an ecological trap for vultures.

Fighting poisoning

Many countries dedicate considerable resources to fight the threat of poisoning to vultures. The EU LIFE budget for example funds anti-poisoning actions in many projects dedicated to vultures, including some of the LIFE projects in which the FWFF is participating.