After two decades of recovery, species of black vulture and other necrophagous birds (i.e. feeding on carrion) face a new threat, namely a lack of food. This has been caused by several factors, including the emergence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), which provoked strict measures to prevent its spread; the most important, with regard to these birds being an obligation to collect and dispose of sheep, goat and cattle corpses in central Spain. The management of by-products of hoofed animals coming from hunting has also changed in recent years, due to considerations of disease spread, resulting in the reduction of food availability for scavenging species. Stricter health controls from farms, to slaughterhouses and meat production facilities have also reduced waste food sources. In addition, the decline of extensive livestock grazing in recent years, particularly of sheep, reduces considerably the potential biomass available for black vulture and other priority bird scavenger species of European Community interest.
The LIFE FEEDING SCAVENGERS project aims to protect black vultures in their natural habitats in central Spain, using feeding stations in locations that reduce inter-specific competition. Specific project objectives are to: Construct a database of food availability spatial data, to help optimise the management of available biomass for its use by the black vulture and other necrophagous bird species; Make available enough food for black vulture and other species, in such a way that its spatial distribution benefits all of the wild scavenger bird species of community interest in the project area of central Spain; Reduce the competition of the black vulture against other scavenger bird species with unfavourable conservation status, through a spatial distribution and accessibility to food that favours all species; Keep the reproductive success of target species within optimal parameters; Ease the re-colonisation of historic breeding areas to the black vulture; Complete a supplementary feeding point network to guarantee access to food for black vulture when necessary and, in addition, to mitigate against potential food crisis and reduce mortality due to the illegal use of poison; Analyse causes where food is not eaten and suggest necessary corrections; Adjust feeding programmes to current legislation; and Reduce the existing conflict between scavenger species and livestock farmers.
Expected results: A dynamic database, including the amount of animal remains potentially usable as food by the black vulture and other scavenger bird species; All extensive livestock farmers informed of the requirement to leave animal remains at protected areas and to encourage the incorporation of these into the feeding programme; Ten mobile supplementary feeding stations built; An annual balance between available animal biomass and the feeding necessities of the scavenger populations in the project areas achieved; Reproductive success of target species kept within optimal range that is 0.7 for black vulture, 0.7 for Griffon vulture, 0.9 for Egyptian vulture, 1.6 for red kite and 1.6 for black kite; Increased percentage of threatened black vulture, Egyptian vulture and black kite, in relation to the number of griffon vulture, throughout the project area; and Livestock farmers in the project area trained in techniques for feeding target scavenger bird species.