Douro Internacional e Vale do Águeda SPA and Arribes del Duero SPA form one of the main areas for Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), Bonelli´s eagle (Aquila fasciata) and red kite (Milvus milvus) in the Iberian Peninsula. For the Egyptian vulture, the local population represents 10% of the total population of the peninsula. For Portugal, the area is the last stronghold of the Egyptian vulture and the red kite in the country.
The populations of all these birds of prey are declining nationally and in the wider EU. In the project area/SPAs these populations are still high, though breeding rates have declined and adult mortality rates increased as a result of poor habitat quality, disturbance and persecution.
Populations of Bonelli's eagle are stable in both SPAs with 13 breeding pairs since 2006, but the number of flying chicks fell from eight in 2006 to just four in 2013. As for the Egyptian vulture, the population in both SPAs decreased from 157 breeding pairs in 2006 to 116 in 2013, a 35% decline.
The LIFE Rupis project aims to: Strengthen the populations of Egyptian vulture and Bonelli?s eagle in Douro Internacional valley, through improved breeding success and reduction of mortality; Improve the reproductive rate for both species (the target is at least one flying chick per active nest per year for both species); Reduce nest disturbance for these species with the aim of eliminating persecution of all breeding pairs in the project area; Increase food availability, particularly during breeding season; Reduce adult mortality for both species; Improve the habitat quality through better management of farming and grazing practices; and Better knowledge and dissemination of best practices for wildlife conservation.
Expected results: Improvement of breeding productivity of Egyptian vulture and Bonelli?s eagle, compared with baseline (2006-2013) data; Increased red partridge and European rabbit abundance compared with 2015 baseline through better habitat and game management in at least six Bonelli?s eagle territories; Increased pigeon abundance, compared with 2015 baseline, through the recovery and reactivation of traditional pigeon houses in eight Bonelli?s eagle territories; Establishment of temporary local feeding stations for small scavengers, functioning within the EU and national sanitary regulations, serving at least 50 territories of Egyptian vulture; Surveys of all vulnerable nests and their protection during critical periods; Every individual of the target species that is found injured sent to recovery centres, which are equipped to treat these species and to deal with suspected poisonings; Two operative human-canine brigades to detect and act against illegal use of poison in the field. More than 300 monitoring actions to detect poison in the field performed per year in the project area; At least 50% of all suspected cases of illegal poisoning in the project area are adequately investigated and documented, and at least one case followed through a criminal process; Data on the prevalence of heavy metals and veterinary drugs on scavenging raptors available for future conservation planning; At least 120 electric pylons retrofitted as a mitigating measure against bird electrocution; Pilot habitat management covering at least 120 ha through traditional livestock practices and results disseminated; At least 15 land owners or other land managers are members of the poison-free network; Two international workshops on bird of prey conservation issues held; Two ?Bird of the Year? campaigns carried out; 5 000 people reached through different communication means in whole project; and Area of SPA enlarged to secure more effective protection.