Our work to protect and increase the numbers of Cinereous and Griffon vultures in the Rhodope Mountains has been nominated for the European LIFE Award.
Also, the LIFE RE-Vultures initiative will compete among the 12 finalists for the LIFE Citizens’ Prize. Vote now for LIFE RE-Vultures and support the recovery of vulture populations.
Vultures play a crucial role in well-functioning ecosystems. Over the last five years, the LIFE RE-Vultures initiative has helped to stabilize and grow the Griffon and Cinereous vulture population in the Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria and Greece.
Supported by the European LIFE Programme, the team successfully implemented various actions to protect and increase the numbers of both vulture species. Some of the key results and achievements of LIFE-RE Vultures include eliminating electrocution by insulating dangerous electricity power lines; successful fallow and red deer breeding programme that ensured a sustainable population in the region and creating the first anti-poison dog unit team.
The comeback of the Griffon Vulture
The Eastern Rhodopes is the only place in Bulgaria where an indigenous Griffon Vulture population still exists. Within the project 308 Griffon Vultures hatched in the Bulgarian part of the Rhodope Mountains thanks to long-term efforts. Compared to 2016, where 81 pairs were registered, today there are 111. Furthermore, the data show an increase in the number of individuals — from 184 in 2016 to 245 Griffon Vultures in 2020.
Establishing the first anti-poison dog unit in Bulgaria
Among other steps, the project created the first anti-poison dog unit in the country to detect and remove poisons from nature, while supporting police investigations relating to wildlife poisoning. Over four years, the team conducted 153 searches and patrols. 310 potential threats were identified, 40 of which were illegally poisoned animals, 7 carcasses and 10 poisonous baits. The human and dog team found a total of 11 poisoned animal species.
Restoring the red deer and fallow deer populations
One of the aims of LIFE Re-Vultures was to improve the availability of carcasses of wild ungulates to vultures in the Eastern Rhodopes. With targeted actions, the project aimed to rebuild, step by step, the fallow deer and red deer populations in the whole of the Eastern Rhodopes. Such reintroduction efforts have been in motion for years to help create biodiversity-rich mosaic landscapes and enhance local food chains. Thanks to reintroduction efforts over the last five years, more than 400 fallow deer and 50 red deer have been released in different areas across the Eastern Rhodopes. Finally, the return of wild ungulates in the wild reduces damage to domestic animals, and as a result, helps improve wildlife-human conflict.
Another important part of looking after Griffon Vultures and Cinereous Vultures is by tracking them with GPS transmitters. This allows conservationists to identify and mitigate the main threats they face, as GPS data provides great insight into their migrations, feeding habits, and more aspects of their lives. That is why the project team installed GPS transmitters on 27 Cinereous Vultures and 33 Griffon Vultures in Bulgaria and Greece.
The LIFE Awards
The LIFE Awards recognise the most innovative, inspirational and effective LIFE projects in three categories: nature protection, environment and climate action. The winners are selected by an expert jury and announced on the day of the ceremony, which takes place during the EU Green Week – Europe’s biggest environmental event.
The LIFE Citizens’ Prize allows the general public to vote for their preferred project online. The voting will end on the day of the ceremony (Monday 30th May 2022). The winner will be announced live during the LIFE Awards 2022 Ceremony where part of our LIFE RE-Vulture team will be also present.