A wild bearded vulture found dead in the French Pyrenees – and a whole network of people mobilizes to find out what killed him!

The body of a wild adult male Bearded Vulture found this week in the French Pyrenees 

Very sad and disappointing new has just been announced by the Vulture Conservation Foundation who are involved in a project to return the Bearded Vulture back into the Alps. On February 20th Pascal Borreill, a train driver, saw the body of a bearded vulture on the railroad tracks near Villefranche de Conflent. The bird – with full adult plumage – was in perfect condition. Staff from the French railroads then warned Olivier Salvador of the Federation of Catalan Nature Reserves (FRNC), which in turn alerts the people involved in the monitoring of this endangered vulture in Europe: the network springs into action.

The corpse was then collected by Gilles Boumaza, an official agent, and frozen on the premises of the National Hunting and Wildlife Association (ONCFS) in Prades, before its transfer to Ariege where it will be autopsied. The next day Angèle Pialot, from ONCFS-Ariege, gets the dead bearded vulture at the Puymorens pass from her Catalan colleagues and carries it to the veterinary laboratory Tarascon. There it is X-rayed and autopsied by Dr. Lydia Vilagins, a veterinary specialist in raptors. Many samples are taken and sent to a specialized laboratory (VetAgro-Sup Lyon) for eco-toxicological analysis. The results are still pending.

Unfortunately the vulture, a male, was a breeding bird, and the next day Claude, registers the reproductive failure of the local breeding pair. Bearded vultures are rare because they do not start breeding until reaching the age of 8 years. The loss of a breeding individual is a blow to the department Pyrénées-Orientales, where only one other pair is now breeding.

The bearded vulture is the subject of a National Action Plan in France, led by the Ministry for the Environment since 1997 and coordinated by the DREAL Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes. The Pyrenean part of this action plan has been delegated to the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), which relies on a huge network of technical partners, and observers, some of which were involved in this incident. The bearded vulture nests again in the Pyrenees-Orientales since 2002, following multiple actions implemented under this Plan, with the support of local communities, the French state and the European Union.

This article was published by the Vulture Conservation Foundation 3 March 2016


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