Last spring, the young vultures hatched in ARTIS. Of their six parents, three were brought over from Spain following a traffic accident that had left them unable to survive in the wild. The birds were subsequently housed in ARTIS, where they recovered and eventually mated with other griffon vultures. It is their offspring, raised in captivity, which is now being released into the wild. As a result, these chicks will contribute to the griffon vulture’s preservation within Europe.
Griffon vultures live in pristine, warm regions in Asia, North Africa and southern Europe, including Sardinia. A 2013 population count found only 30 pairs on this island. While reintroduction programmes and new laws have positively affected these birds in Europe, protection remains of the essence. As scavengers, griffon vultures play a vital role in the circle of life. Vultures eat dead animals, making them nature’s clean-up crew. Among other things, these birds consume the carcasses of roadkill, which puts them in danger of becoming traffic victims themselves. After the three griffon vultures were hit by vehicles, they were first transported to a shelter in Málaga and later moved to ARTIS.
Soon to be released are three griffon vultures born in 2018: one female in March and two males in April, a day apart. Parents face quite a challenge hatching and raising these chicks. The pair first spend two months taking turns to brood. When the chicks finally hatch, they need plenty of food: their size will match their parents in just over three months’ time. To ensure success, the vulture pair spend six long months in close collaboration, making a tightly knit team with an equal share of responsibilities.
Two griffon vultures previously raised in ARTIS were released on Sardinia in April 2018. The release of these birds fell within the scope of the wildlife conservation project ‘Life Under Griffon Wings’, which saw them join an existing colony of roughly 140–160 griffon vultures. A GPS tracker allows the birds’ location to be monitored here . Another site on the island will be selected for the release of the three vultures this year.