Sicily represents a key area for three species listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive: Bonelli’s eagle (Aquila fasciata), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus). It hosts 100% of the confirmed nesting population of Egyptian vulture, and 65% of the Italian population as a whole and 65% of the national lanner population. Moreover, more than 60% of Sicilian nesting pairs of Bonelli’s eagle is found in the nine SPAs where the project will be implemented.
The three species are all endangered. The population of Egyptian vulture in Sicily has decreased by 85-90% over the past 30 years, mainly due to changes in the agricultural practices and the reduction of extensive goat and sheep grazing, while the Bonelli’s eagle is suffering as a result of poaching of eggs and chicks. It is threatened with extinction in the region in the coming decades.
The overall goal of the LIFE ConRaSi project is to improve the reproductive success of Bonelli's eagle, Egyptian vulture and lanner populations, by carrying out habitat improvement measures. The aim is to increase the number of nesting pairs and their area of distribution. Specifically, the project aims to: Halt nest predation by poachers in Sicily; Improve the trophic (nutritional) capacity of the Sicilian territories where the species occur, by setting up feeding sites and rabbit hutches; Gain a detailed picture of the three species’ demography, mortality rates and survival rates, as well as their distribution o in relation to the Natura 2000 network, proposing, where necessary, adjustments (i.e. new boundaries of current sites and inclusion of new sites); Draw up a genetic map of the Bonelli's eagle population; Set up guidelines for habitat management aimed at improving the status of the three species, through the development of models of habitat preference and related habitat suitability models; Draw up the National Action Plan for Bonelli's eagle and its adoption by the national and regional institutions; and Improve information offered to stakeholders and the general public in the areas where the species occur.
Expected results: Reduction by 80-90% of nest predation by poachers affecting the Sicilian population of Bonelli's eagle and the reduction of the problem for the lanner; Stabilisation and possible increase in the population of Egyptian vulture, through an increase in reproductive success, a reduction in mortality and recruitment of new individuals (fledging rate increased from 1% to 1.49% for young nesting pairs) and the establishment of new breeding pairs (3-5 pairs by 2020); Complete census across the entire regional territory of the breeding population of Bonelli's eagle and Egyptian vulture, and the population of lanner inside the targeted SPAs; Exhaustive genetic mapping of the Bonelli's eagle population as a tool for combatting the illegal market of birds of prey in Italy and abroad; Preparation of a National Action Plan for the conservation of Bonelli's eagle; Recolonisation of recently abandoned areas because of trophic problems thanks to the increased availability of prey species (wild rabbit) and colonisation of new territories due to an increase in reproductive success; Equipping of 10 individual Bonelli's eagle/year with GPS satellite transmitters to track the movements and collect data about juvenile dispersal and mortality; Increased knowledge of the ecology of the species, through the assessment of habitat preferences and collection/documentation of prey and food remains at nests; and Implementation of land management compatible with the presence of the target species thanks to the operational tools developed by current project and made available to the regional councils, regional parks, nature reserves.