The main conservation action of the “Conservation of black and griffon vultures in Rhodope mountains”project in the Greek part of Rhodope Mountain is the establishment of a network of small-sized feeding sites for vultures that will be supplied by livestock breeders.
The Kompsatos valley was selected by WWF Greece as a suitable area to run this action as 2-4 pairs of Griffon vultures and one pair of Egyptian vulture breeds, while Black vulture is a visitor that forages there; these livestock breeders are almost the only remained land users in this valley. In summer, they move up to the high altitudes to pasture the steep slopes around the magnificent rocks of Thracian Meteora and in winter, they return to the hills around the lowland villages; a local transhumance, maybe one of the last in Rhodopes.
Five feeding sites were constructed taking into account several parameters for a proper site selection such as suitable place for vulture landing/take off, distribution in the valley to make them reachable for many livestock breeders, proximity to livestock breeders’ routes etc. The five sites were fenced to keep mammals out. In March 2019, the operation of the feeding sites has started. Twenty stock breeders expressed their interest to support this action and signed the relevant papers with the Vet Service. This far, nine breeders have placed dead livestock in the sites. Meanwhile, WWF Greece also obtained permission to place food at the feeding sites aiming to assess the response of vultures to the new constructions. Trail cameras were also placed for recording the vultures and reading wing tags/plastic rings.
After 9 months of operation, maximum 10 Griffon vultures and 5 Black vultures have been recorded. Among them, there were identified marked Griffon vultures from Bulgaria and Serbia, Black vultures marked in the National Park of Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli forest and Black vulture released in Bulgaria under the LIFE “Тhe Bright Future for Black Vulture” (LIFE14 NAT/BG/649). Moreover, as soon as the unique Egyptian vulture pair of the valley arrived from Africa in early spring, the birds directly located the feeding sites becoming the most frequent users! It is worth mentioning that one member of the pair was tagged with a satellite transmitter under the LIFE “The Return of the Neophron” (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152) as a chick in Bulgaria in 2012 and this year successfully bred in Kompsatos valley.
In December, WWF Greece organized a demo visit of livestock breeders from Kompsatos valley to the Dadia National Park where they had the chance to observe vultures and learn about the importance of this area for raptors and vultures. Moreover, they realized the distance that vultures cover in a day from Dadia to Kompsatos searching for food; they also learned about the long term protection efforts of Dadia forest and the importance of common synergies throughout Rhodope Mountain for the survival of the species.
The operation of the feeding sites will be maintained by WWF Greece until the end of the project expecting more breeders to actively support this initiative and as result to see more flying and breeding vultures in the Thracian Meteora in the future.
We would like to thank: the Rhodope Forest and Vet Directorate, the Iasmos Forest and Vet Service, the Iasmos Municipality, the Management Body of National Park of Nestos-Vistonida-Ismarida and Thasos and the Ministry of Environment and Energy for their collaboration and support of the action in Kompsatos valley (GR1130012).