Egyptian vultures fledglings from European Zoos will be released in Bulgaria by the hacking method


© Stoyan Nikolov

On August 10, a team of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) and Green Balkans placed two young captive-bred Egyptian vultures in a hack near Madzharovo. The two vultures were donated by the Prague and Zlin Zoos in line with the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and were transported personally by the Coordinator of the EEP – Anton Vaidl, and the Director of Prague Zoo - Miroslav Bobek. The experimental "hacking" method - adaptation to the wild life of captive-bred vultures trough an artificial nest, aims to strengthen the endangered population of the Egyptian vulture on the Balkans.

Before the placement in the artificial nest, the two young Egyptian vultures were tagged with satellite transmitters to track their movements after the release and during their first migration to Africa. The event was attended by representatives of the Inspectorate of Environment and Waters in Haskovo. The tagging of Egyptian vultures was used as opportunity to transfer knowledge to colleagues and volunteers from other countries (France and FYR of Macedonia).

The adaption aviary (hack) – a special lightweight construction with a net and a pipe for the food and the water for the vultures, is built in a rock niche inhabited years ago by a pair of Egyptian vultures. In this way the birds can’t see the people who take care of them. A video surveillance camera is also installed to monitor the behavior of the young vultures who will remain in the hack for 10-20 days. Over the next few years, the aviary is expected to shelter at least 10 birds in total.

The method requires the opening of the hacks door to be unnoticed by the Egyptian vultures. The time this will happen is chosen to coincide with the time when the wild young Egyptian vulture living in the area will leave the wild nests and start learning to fly. The approach proposes to socialize the captive-bred birds with the other Egyptian Vultures. Near the hack site there is a feeding site where the young Egyptian viltures can easily find safe food. The Eastern Rhodopes are the core of the Egyptian vulture population in the Balkans and home to the largest population of the Griffon vultures in Bulgaria, which will also contribute to the quicker adaptation of the released birds.

The activity is part of a 5-year experimental programme for active management of the critically endangered Egyptian Vulture population in the Balkans in order to increase the breeding success and survival of the young individuals. It is carried out by a team of BSPB and Green Balkans within the framework of the LIFE project "Egyptian Vulture New LIFE", (LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874), which brings together institutions and organizations from 14 countries spanning the Balkans, Middle East and Africa. The two Egyptian vultures have been donated to the project with the assistance of Anton Vaidl - coordinator of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and with the assistance of VCF.

LIFE project Egyptian vulture New LIFE, hack, EAZA, BSPB, Green Balkans