A heavily endangered bearded vulture only recently released into the wild has been shot dead by poachers at a French national park.
Bearded vulture fledgling, Dolomie, was found riddled with 15 lead pellets in Lozere in the Cevennes National Park, southern France, less than 4 months after he had been released back into nature as part of a conservation programme.
This is at least the third case of bearded vultures being gunned down in the Cevennes area since 2014 and the ninth to die or disappear across Europe since 2013.
Dolomie was part of the European Gypconnect conservation program that reared 33 vultures to save the heavily endangered species from the brink of extinction that has been running since 2016.
The program aims, among other things, to recreate a connection between the Alpine and Pyrenean populations of Bearded Vultures thanks to the installation of a reintroduced population in the Grands Causses where the three other species of European vultures are already established: the Griffon Vulture, the Monk Vulture and the Egyptian Vulture.
Born on March 12, 2020 at Tierpark Zoo (Berlin), Dolomie was released in Aveyron on June 13 by France’s leading bird charity, Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux (LPO).
However, the vulture was found riddled with lead on 11th October after his GPS tracker set off the alarm.
An LPO statement described the death, saying: “The corpse was quickly retrieved and an autopsy and analysis was carried out.
“Dolomie showed about fifteen shot pellets on the x-ray. These pellets did not affect the internal organs but caused the fall of the individual via sub-sternal hemorrhage, hemopericardium and perforation of the intestine, which was pierced by a small fragment of bone caused by the shock. The bird died from internal bleeding.”
Lead conservationist for the project, Bruno Veillet, and his team are furious.
He told Real Press: “Each released vulture requires a considerable financial and human investment from the breeding centre and its carers, through transport to the release site – which has been very complicated this year with COVID19 and border closures, then feeding and monitoring at the release site and finally GPS telemetric tracking.
“Each premature disappearance of these birds, which only reproduce from the age of 6-7 years, compromises the success of our project.”
The IUCN “Endangered” Alpine birds have a wingspan of 2.5 metres (8.2ft), making them one of the biggest birds in Europe.
In 2019, there were only 51 breeding pairs of bearded vultures in France – based in the Pyrenees, Alps and Corsica – according to Mr Veillet.
The LPO has filed a complaint for the destruction of a protected species, an offense punishable by 3 years’ imprisonment and a fine of EUR 150,000 (135,868 GBP) and an investigation by the park and the National Gendarmerie is ongoing.
“None of [the nine] cases have been resolved to date. We hope that the means of investigation mobilised this time will finally make it possible to find a culprit and that he will be heavily sentenced.” Mr Veillet said.
In spite of the setbacks, the program is having some success and the vultures have been spotted roaming all over Europe.
One bearded vulture named Vigo recently made headlines in the UK when he visited the Lake District in early October and headed back over the channel last week.
Vigo was born in freedom in Haute Savoie in the Alps, according to Mr Veillet.
To find out more about the author, editor or agency that supplied this story – please click below.
Story By: Les Steed, Sub-Editor: James King, Agency: Real Press
The Ananova page is created by and dedicated to professional, independent freelance journalists. It is a place for us to showcase our work. When our news is sold to our media partners, we will include the link here.