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European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency
News article1 February 2023European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency3 min read

How LIFE is securing a brighter future for the Egyptian Vulture  

LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874
Photo: LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874

The team behind Egyptian Vulture New LIFE has tackled threats to the globally endangered Egyptian Vulture’s flyway from the Balkans through the Middle East and into Africa.  

The Egyptian Vulture is one of the most threatened species on the planet. Due to poisoning, poaching and electrocution, its population in the Balkans has declined by more than 80% over the past 30 years. 

The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE team has stabilised the easternmost European Egyptian Vulture population for the first time. To do this, 22 partners from 14 countries joined forces to deliver urgent conservation measures to address the main threats at breeding grounds and along the flyway.  

Over 60 individual vultures were tagged, creating the scientific basis behind the team’s work. This helped identify the key and most prevalent threats to the birds, ensuring targeted conservation actions. 

The team implemented various anti-poison activities in the Balkans. These included developing poisoning databases, compiling sensitivity maps and adopting national anti-poisoning road maps across the region.   

They also set up the first anti-poisoning dog units as part of the Bulgarian police force and established local anti-poison stakeholder networks. As a result of these measures, the number of reported poisoning incidents in the project areas decreased by 50%. However, work needs to continue to maintain this trend in the longer term. 

Along the flyway, the team worked with energy companies and governments in six key countries to insulate 1 620 hazardous electricity poles and pylons. At the beginning of the project, the team found 839 dead birds along 2 849 km of surveyed power lines. But after the lines were insulated, no deaths were reported, confirming the effectiveness of these measures. Retrofitting powerlines to make them safe for birds was a pilot measure in the Middle East and Africa project countries.  

Significant efforts were made to ban diclofenac and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for veterinary use in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.  

In Lebanon, the number of bird fatalities per hunter was reduced by 32% due to a responsible hunting campaign and anti-poaching units. Project staff also collaborated with residents and stakeholders in Nigeria and Niger to address the use of vulture parts in traditional medicine. Many tribal healers have started to use plant-based alternatives in these two countries, reducing the sale of vulture parts in surveyed markets by between 80 and 90%.  

The team set up a captive breeding programme and a population reinforcement strategy to boost numbers in the Balkans. 32 young Egyptian Vultures were released into the wild, and a method was devised to ensure a higher survival of released individuals. 

Thanks to the large-scale and diverse communication activities carried out under the project, the Egyptian Vulture became popular and emblematic along its flyway. Overall, the project’s work reached 31 million people from 185 countries through over 200 events and 120 000 printed materials.  

The capacity of stakeholders to conserve the species increased substantially. Over 500 environmental inspectors, police officers, rangers, foresters and vets were trained in anti-poison and anti-poaching activities. A targeted environmental education package was developed and adapted along the flyway, involving over 4 000 students from 100 schools. 

’Our project is one of the most ambitious conservation ventures in the history of vulture conservation,’ says Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project manager Stoyan Nikolov. ‘I am extremely proud we proved it was successfully applied at a trans-continental flyway scale.’ 

The partners’ work built on the highly successful Return of the Neophron project. 

The project supports the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, which aims at halting the decline of wild birds, including the Egyptian Vulture.  

It also contributes to the goals set out in the EU’s Birds Directive. 

More information 

Find out more in the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE’s Layman’s Report 

Watch a short documentary about the project. 


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