The Egyptian vulture is one of the most threatened species on the planet. Due to poaching, electrocution, poison, and lack of food, its population in the Balkans has declined by more than 80% over the past 30 years. A Portuguese volunteer has travelled to Greece in a bid to help reverse this worrying trend.
On the occasion of International Youth Day, which celebrates young peoples’ engagement on global issues, we spoke with Helena, a volunteer working on the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE and LIFE RE-Vultures projects. In a blog, she tells us about her experience of addressing the numerous threats these birds face.
A letter from Maria
My name is Maria Helena Correia. I studied biology for my bachelor’s degree before completing a master’s in marine biology. After my studies, I worked as a laboratory researcher in Portugal for around two years.
I’ve been working at WWF Greece (World Wide Fund for Nature) since February as part of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC) programme. I made the decision to come here as I wanted to learn about conservation and to work in nature, which I love.
I am volunteering mainly on the Egyptian Vulture New LIFE project. I’m also involved in another project called LIFE RE-Vultures.
For Egyptian Vulture New LIFE, I’m usually on the field monitoring the vultures’ nests and territories. I also try to stop livestock being attacked by wolves, and crops being destroyed by foxes and badgers. To do this, I’ve been helping install electric fences as well as fladries, which are strings of flags used to put wildlife off from crossing boundaries. The farmers and livestock breeders sometimes use poison baits to stop this from happening. But this poison bait and the poisoned animals are often consumed by the vultures, who end up dying. Fences are therefore a great alternative.
We have also donated Greek Shepherd puppies to livestock breeders. These puppies, once grown up and trained, make excellent guard dogs to protect the animals.
For LIFE RE-Vultures, I am monitoring the Griffon vulture. This involves leaving food at special feeding stations set up under the project at a Natura 2000 site.
I have so many good memories of working here. For example, the livestock breeders and their families were especially grateful when we put up their new electric and fladry fences. So much so that they offered us the most amazing food grown on their farms, which we really enjoyed after a long day’s work.
I think my time here has had a positive impact on the Egyptian vulture. The illegal use of poison is the greatest threat to these amazing birds. Both the farmers and livestock breeders have changed their views on using poison to deal with wildlife attacks. I believe we have shown them the importance of protecting the Egyptian vulture and that there are other ways of stopping the damage caused by wild animals. This, I strongly believe, will reduce the number of Egyptian vulture and other vulture deaths.
As I mentioned before, I used to work as a researcher in a laboratory. But my experience here in Greece has changed my perspective completely. I now know that I want to pursue a career in conservation. Everyone is preoccupied with money nowadays – but we need to give a voice to species who are not being heard and this is what I want to do.
About Egyptian Vulture New LIFE and LIFE RE-Vultures
The Egyptian Vulture New LIFE team is doing its utmost to reinforce the easternmost European Egyptian vulture population. To do this, members are delivering urgent conservation measures to address various threats at breeding grounds and along the flyway. Their work is building on the successful Return of the Neophron project.
The team behind the LIFE RE-Vultures project has set out to protect and increase the only native Griffon vulture population in Bulgaria and the few remaining breeding pairs in North-Eastern Greece.
The EU is well aware of the threat to our birdlife and in its 2030 Biodiversity strategy committed to halting the decline of wild birds, including the Egyptian vulture.
Live streaming of the Egyptian vultures' wild nest
Watch here the live streaming of the Egyptian vultures' wild nest from the Egyptian vulture New LIFE project:
- Publication date
- 11 August 2020
- Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises