The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is the only long-distance migrant among European vulture species. Although its distribution range extends throughout Euro-Asia and Africa, it has become increasingly threatened by human activities. The rapid decline observed in the past 20 years has led to its re-listing in the IUCN Red List as ‘endangered’ at global level, as well as at EU level. Egyptian vulture is strictly protected by multilateral and regional environmental agreements, such as the EU Birds Directive, Bern Convention, CMS and CITES.
The core Balkan population in Bulgaria and Greece, with additional pairs in Albania and the Republic of Macedonia, migrates to wintering grounds that largely overlap with resident populations in West Africa, the Sahel, East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Most European breeding pairs (80%) are concentrated in the Iberian Peninsula. Elsewhere the population is highly fragmented, with about 230 pairs nesting in the Caucasus (stable), but only 80 in the Balkans and less than 10 pairs in the Apennine peninsula (both critically endangered). Thus, the Balkan pairs act as a bridge between the Asian and the Iberian populations, and are essential for the conservation status of the species on the whole continent.
The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project is one of the most ambitious ever vulture conservation initiatives. Its implementation is crucial in a European and greater international context, because stabilising the Balkan population of Egyptian vulture in Bulgaria and Greece is a pivotal prerequisite to securing survival of the species in its global range. The project aims to reinforce the vulture population in the EU’s easternmost range by delivering urgent conservation measures that eliminate major known threats in the breeding grounds and along the flyway in the Mediterranean, Africa and the Middle East (with the involvement of 14 countries in Africa and the Middle East).
The objectives of the project are in line with the European Species Action Plan (SAP) foreseen in the Birds Directive, and in particular with those set in the Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of the Egyptian Vulture (EVFAP).
Specific project objectives are to:
The European SAP and the EVFAP considers that the proposed project measures are necessary to avoid the extinction of the Egyptian vulture’s Balkan population. Notably, the expected conservation gain is based on experience gained through a previous LIFE project, Return of the Neophron (LIFE10 NAT/BG/000152), which demonstrated the most productive conservation strategies.