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LIFE Project Cover Photo

Restoration of connections between the Alpine and Pyrenean populations of bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus)

Reference: LIFE14 NAT/FR/000050 | Acronym: LIFE GYPCONNECT

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

BACKGROUND

The conservation status of the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) is listed as vulnerable on the European IUCN Red List and endangered in France. Before vulture reintroductions started, the Alps represented a huge barrier separating the Pyreneo-Iberian populations and those of the Balkans. To bridge the distance between the populations of the western Alps and the Oriental Pyrenees, it is essential to establish a new core population of bearded vultures and to favour an exchange of populations with a view to forming a true European meta-population.


OBJECTIVES

The LIFE GYPCONNECT project aimed to develop new vulture populations in the Department of the Drôme and the Massif Central, thus creating a connection between the two existing populations, currently confined to the Alps and the Pyrenees.

The project’s main objectives were to:

  • Strengthen the population of bearded vultures by creating core populations in the Drôme and the Massif Central; and
  • Facilitate bird movements between the Alps and the Pyrenees and thus enhance exchanges and genetic diversity of bearded vulture populations.

The project team comprised raptor conservation experts, managers of the electricity grid networks and sociologists. Specifically, the team planned to: 1. Coordinate a captive breeding programme and to reintroduce vultures on specific sites; 2. Enhance the availability of food resources; 3. Reduce existing threats; 4. Draw up a communication plan to increase the public’s awareness and to spread results; and 5. Regularly assess the impact of the project and to develop a strategic implementation plan.


 


RESULTS

GypConnect contributed to the establishment of a corridor between the Alpine and Pyrenean populations of bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus). In particular, the project partners released 44 young bearded vultures, plus 2 wild-born birds from the Alps that were rescued and then released. 15 of these birds died prematurely from various causes, but the project team improved their protocols (e.g. post-release surveillance) to reduce risks, for example, in Grands Causses they mitigated risks caused by power lines close to release sites. The release strategy was adapted, increasing the number of individuals released each time, based on observing the first young vultures fly away from their release sites. These operations are now leading to concrete results.

To support the reintroductions and help birds move between the Pyrenees and the Alps, the project team created 29 natural rendering areas, and 7 feeding stations were supplied with bones, specifically for the supplementary feeding of bearded vultures. To reduce mortality risks, the project team:

  • Equipped 19.3 km of power lines with anti-collision devices or buried them underground.
  • Intervened in the planning of 4 wind farm projects, which were rejected by relevant authorities due to their potential impact on bearded vultures.
  • Cared for 5 injured bearded vultures, some of which were re-released or transferred to breeding centres.
  • Trialled lead-free ammunition, with 51 volunteer hunters; the positive feedback helped promote the replacement of toxic lead ammunition.
  • Established a Decree prohibiting paragliding and base jumping in the "Hauts plateaux du Vercors" Natura 2000 site. The bearded vulture was also added to the standard data forms of 12 Natura 2000 sites.
  • Autopsied 153 birds, including 16 bearded vultures, to identify the causes of death. In most cases, mortality was linked to human activities or infrastructure, especially collision/electrocution on power lines. However, intentional killing (shooting, poisoning) is not negligible, and a follow-up project (Gyp'Act) will address this.
  • Implemented numerous communication and awareness-raising activities, including over 220 events that reached about 231 000 people. This led to increased support for vulture reintroductions among communities near to the release sites.

At the end of the project, increased numbers of bearded vultures were observed flying in the project areas (e.g. 11 in spring 2022 in Grands Causses), 5 to 6 pairs became established, and there was the first wild-born fledgling in Vercors (150 years after the species became extinct in the wild and 12 years after the first reintroductions in the area). The project is fully embedded in the European conservation strategy for the bearded vulture, and has significantly contributed to the development of a European meta-population. It also substantially contributes to the implementation of the EU Birds Directive and of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030. 

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Conservation Plan (see "Read more" section).

 

ADMINISTRATIVE DATA


Reference: LIFE14 NAT/FR/000050
Acronym: LIFE GYPCONNECT
Start Date: 01/09/2015
End Date: 31/07/2022
Total Eligible Budget: 5,547,192 €
EU Contribution: 4,157,440 €

CONTACT DETAILS


Coordinating Beneficiary: Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux
Legal Status: PNC
Address: Fonderies Royales 08 rue du docteur Pujos, 17305, ROCHEFORT SUR MER,
Contact Person: Orabi PASCAL
Email: Send Email
Website: Visit Website


LIFE Project Map

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ADDRESSED

THEMES

  • Birds

KEYWORDS

  • carcass disposal
  • controlled hunting zone
  • hunting
  • reintroduction
  • scavengers
  • disturbance to wildlife
  • poisoning
  • wildlife crime
  • animal corridor
  • powerlines

TARGET EU LEGISLATION

  • Directive 79/409 - Conservation of wild birds (02.04.1979)
  • COM(2011) 244 final “Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020” (03.05.2011)
  • COM(2020) 380 EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 Bringing nature back into our lives (20.05.2020.) 

TARGET HABITAT TYPES

  • 0 - Non applicable (i.e.species project)

SPECIES

  • Gypaetus barbatus

NATURA 2000 SITES

Type Code Name
SPA FR8210114 Basse Ardèche
SPA FR9110033 Les Cévennes
SPA FR9110105 Gorges du Tarn et de la Jonte
SPA FR9110111 Basses Corbières
SCI FR7301822 Garonne, Ariège, Hers, Salat, Pique et Neste
SCI FR8201654 Basse Ardèche urgonienne
SCI FR8201744 Hauts plateaux et contreforts du Vercors oriental
SCI FR9101385 Causse du Larzac
SCI FR9101399 La Cèze et ses gorges
SCI FR9101424 Le Caroux et l'Espinouse
SCI FR9101444 Les Causses du Minervois
SCI FR9101489 Vallée de l'Orbieu
SPA FR9112002 Le Salagou
SPA FR9112003 Minervois
SPA FR9112004 Hautes Garrigues du Montpelliérais
SPA FR7312006 Gorges du Tarn et de la Jonte
SPA FR7312007 Gorges de la Dourbie et causses avoisinants
SPA FR7312008 Gorges de la Frau et Bélesta
SPA FR9112008 Corbières orientales
SPA FR9112009 Pays de Sault
SPA FR9112011 Gorges de la Vis et cirque de Navacelles
SPA FR9112012 Gorges de Rieutord, Fage et Cagnasse
SPA FR9112019 Montagne de l'Espinouse et du Caroux
SPA FR9112027 Corbières occidentales
SPA FR9112028 Hautes Corbières
SCI FR9101458 Vallée du Torgan
SCI FR9102007 Mines de Villeneuvette
SPA FR9112014 Causse noir
SPA FR9112032 Causse du Larzac
SPA FR9112033 Garrigues de Lussan
SPA FR8210017 Hauts plateaux du Vercors

BENEFICIARIES

Name Type
Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux (LPO), France Coordinator
AC Sorbonne Université (SU), France Participant
Parc national des Cévennes (PNC), France Participant
Stichting The Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF), Netherlands Participant
ENEDIS, France Participant
Association Vautours en Baronnies (VEB), France Participant
Syndicat Mixte du Parc Naturel Régional du Vercors (SM-PNRV), France Participant
Centre National d'Informations Toxicologiques Vétérinaires (CNITV), France Participant
Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux d'Occitanie (LPO OCCIT.), France Participant