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Objective: improving vulture population preservation worldwide

The Conservation Biology Group of the UB and the IRBio carries research out aiming to discover the environmental and anthropic factors that define the growth of Catalan population of the Egyptian vulture.

The Conservation Biology Group of the UB and the IRBio carries research out aiming to discover the environmental and anthropic factors that define the growth of Catalan population of the Egyptian vulture.

16/11/2016

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Identifying the main threats that affect European vultures to prioritize the best conservation measures and reverse the negative tendency on worldwide populations. This is the main reference point of the International Meetings for Conservation of Vultures in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East, held this October at Monfrague National Park in Extremadura, with the participation of members of the Conservation Biology Group, linked to the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences, and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio).

 

The meeting, organized by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), according to the resolution of the Convention on Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) gathered more than seventy participants from twenty-five countries and more than fifty different organizations. In these meetings the Multi-Species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP) was started, it will count with the contributions of experts from Europe, Africa and Asia to enable its approval on August 2017. This plan is the essential tool for all the signing countries in the Convention to apply measures in order to preserve vultures worldwide.

 

Vulture populations threatened by poison and and toxic uses

 

The lammergeyer (Gypaetus barbatus), the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Cinereus black vulture (Aegypius monachus) and Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) are the four vulture species that were the focus of the scientific forum. These species, with a worrying conservation state around the world, share a common threat: poison used by humans. These substances, which are illegal in most countries, are used to kill the animals directly, or they act indirectly when used to lower populations of predators and wild animals.

 

The loss of natural habitat, decrease of food availability, direct persecution, interaction with humans, collision with infrastructures such as wind farms and power cables, and electrocution are other factors considered as risks by experts who study conservation of vulture population. Recently, a new threat created a worrying warning: the veterinary use of diclofenac, an extremely toxic anti-immflamatory that caused the death of more than 80% vultures in Asia and starts to appear in Africa. During these meetings, there was a big worry regarding the approval to distribute this anti-immflamatory in Spain, the country that has more vultures in the world (around 30.000 models).

 

The Egyptian vulture, a successful species in Catalonia

 

In this forum, all attendants shared the situation of the different species in each of the attending countries, commenting on the conservation measures that are currently applied in the vulture distribution areas.

 

Also, the researches by the experts of the Conservation Biology Group, Joan Real and Antonio Hernández-Matías, and PhD student Helena Tauler from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences of the UB and IRBio had a special focus. These show an exceptional increase on the Egyptian vulture population in Catalonia over the last 30 years. The Conservation Biology Group of the UB carries research out aiming to discover the environmental and anthropic factors that define the growth of Catalan population, a work line that will allow adding conservation criteria and protocols to stop regression and trying to recover the rest of populations that are decreasing.

 

The Egyptian vulture is considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and it is now in a regression state in a great part of its worldwide distribution area. Its population in Spain, which is one of the most important in the world (1500 couples), has lowered by 25% over the last years, while in Italy, Greece and Bulgaria is seriously threatened. Therefore, promoting the continuity of the research work on this species in Catalonia is a key factor for the future of the species.

 

 

Image: Conservation Biology Group (UB-IRBio)

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