Urgent Actions to Strengthen the Balkan Population of the Egyptian Vulture and Secure Its Flyway

This project is one of the most ambitious conservation ventures in the history of vulture conservation. It aims to reinforce the easternmost population of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in Europe by delivering urgent conservation measures towards eliminating major known threats in the breeding grounds and along the flyway. It is a logical follow up to the completed project The Return of the Neophron. However, the current project has set the scene for the new even more challenging conservation endeavour: the attempt to reverse the negative trend and achieve sustainable population growth on the Balkans.
To save an endangered species, the Egyptian Vulture, institutions and organisations from 14 countries spanning the Balkans, Middle East and Africa have joined forces proving that political borders do not exist in these efforts. All of them have united under the project "Urgent Actions to Strengthen the Balkan Population of the Egyptian Vulture and Secure Its Flyway” (LIFE16 NAT/BG/000874), abbreviated to Egyptian Vulture - New LIFE Project, launched in July 2017 with financial support from the EU's LIFE Programme Union and the co-financing AG Leventis Foundation, Green Fund and the MAVA Foundation.
The strategy of the project builds on two main components:
  1. Achieving steady increase of the population in the breeding ground on the Balkans
  2. Enhancing the context for conservation along the flyway and in the wintering grounds by minimising loss of mature birds
The Balkan component of the project involves creating vulture safe zones (free of poison and providing sufficient and safe food) and developing the capacity and infrastructure to deploy restocking programme, needed to make the shift from the currently dwindling to a vital population. Prior to and in parallel with the restocking programme development the project will actively lobby with national institutions to ensure the necessary of the regulations and work with local authorities of rural settlements to encourage the establishment of controlled carcass dumps. Deliberate poising is still an issue for all Balkan countries, hence the aim to replicate the successful Greek experience in networking among institutions, groups of stakeholders, individuals affected towards creating a Balkan anti-poison network; to eliminate accidental poisoning the project will lobby to discourage use of hazardous agriculture chemicals (reduce agriculture subsidies to violators) and veterinary drugs (ban diclofenac use and encourage use of alternatives).
The Fly-way component of the project will tackle the urgent activities postulated in the International Action Plan. Unfortunately large parts of the Middle East (Lebanon, Syria, and Iran) and African (Chad, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Niger) range countries are war conflict theatre. The project strategy is therefore to secure transfer of experience and build capacity in the safest possible territories – Ethiopia, Chad, Nigeria and Niger, and work with the most stable possible local players (governmental or non-governmental).
The main goals involve:
  • Reduction of loss of individuals due to electrocution at the main roosting sites in Ethiopia;
  • Piloting actions to eliminate use of strychnine or other poisons affecting birds to control rabies at key congregation sites in Ethiopia and Chad;
  • Develop local capacity to combat use of birds in traditional 'religious' ceremonies (Nigeria); and
  • Enhancing local capacity to combat illegal killing of birds (Middle East)
The large scale tailored awareness raising and information campaign built into the project will comprise several distinctive clusters specifically designed to meet the expectation needs of key target stakeholders and audiences identified on the basis of stakeholder assessment, marketing study to position the project communication and information strategy.
The possible clusters include:
  • Capacity building for local institutions through seminars involving practical field work;
  • Communicate the main threats for the vulture based on country specific messages targeted at the particular local audiences generating the threat (poisoning, shooting, belief-based use, etc.)
  • International campaign to promote the Egyptian vulture to through serial happenings at major airports along the flyway comprising painting of murals and eye-to-eye talking to people at the airports (could be combined with fundraising, petition signing, etc.)
  • Training for local communities to ensure uptake of the vulture safe techniques and practices (change of veterinary drugs, use of strychnine or agriculture chemicals alternatives, strengthen law enforcement, veterinary proposed). 
The project objectives are in line with the aims of most recent strategic document outlining the conservation tactic to save the species: the Flyway Action Plan for the Conservation of the Balkan and Central Asian Populations of the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus (EVFAP), as an integrated key component of the Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP). Hence, the specific objectives set are to three overarching goals:
  1. Reduce adult mortality through
    - Minimizing loss of adults due to deliberate or accidental poisoning and electrocution and collisions with energy infrastructures in the breeding grounds;
    - Eliminating safe food availability as a limiting factor in the breeding grounds;
    - Mitigating threats – reducing losses due to poisoning, direct persecution, electrocution at bottleneck and congregation sites along the flyway;
  2. Reinforce the breeding population on the Balkans by deploying a targeted pilot restocking programme to boost population recovery
  3. Increase awareness of and support for Egyptian vulture conservation through relevant stakeholders engagement
Description:Adult mortality reduction
Date de début:
End date:
Output:The first overarching goal dealing with adult mortality reduction involves a suite of actions that could be summarized as follows: - Investigate the impact of agriculture chemicals and Identify as poisoning agents and evaluate the use of veterinary drugs to inform response strategy; - Lobbying to secure appropriate changes of legislation regarding the use of dangerous pesticides and vet medicine products; - Develop local action plans against wildlife poisoning; - Test of alternative methods to reduce human-wildlife conflict that trigger Egyptian vulture persecution; - Establish a pan-Balkan network of stakeholders against wildlife poisoning; - Evaluate the magnitude of damages to Egyptian vulture due to poisoning, electrocution and illegal killing along the flyway; - Establish controlled local carcass dumps to support non-territorial birds at key sites; - Test alternatives to use of strychnine or other poisons to control rabies at key congregation sites in the wintering grounds in Africa; - Reduce loss of individuals due to power generation and power supply (wind turbine collision and electrocution) along the flyway; - Develop local capacity to combat illegal killing and trafficking of birds along the flyway.
Description:Recovery of the Egyptian Vulture Balkan breeding population
Date de début:
End date:
Output:The second major goal shall establish the basis for the recovery of the Balkan breeding population, through tailored restocking strategy. It will be deployed through the following key actions: - Establish Balkan Egyptian vulture captive breeding pool to reinforce the breeding population in Bulgaria and Greece; - Develop and pilot a restocking strategy for the Balkans
Description: Increase awareness of and support for Egyptian Vulture conservation
Date de début:
End date:
Output:The third suite of actions are intended to increase awareness of and support for Egyptian vulture conservation through relevant stakeholders’ engagement. They will be informed by an ethnographic study and guided by a communication strategy and public awareness campaigns. The knowledge and attitudes of key stakeholders in representative areas to Egyptian vultures will be initially registered and carefully monitored. Two major international campaigns are planned: - A Mile for the Egyptian vulture: campaign to communicate main threats to the species to local communities and general public in key countries along the flyway; and - Fly with the Vulture: campaign to engage with prospective supporters.
Date de début:
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Output:Additional communication effort will be invested to: - Develop community understanding and involvement by creating local caretaker groups; - Ensure effective national and international media coverage of the project; - Networking and cooperation with experts along the flyway to disseminate the conservation needs of the species; - Traditional communication tools will be engaged, including interactive website, attractive (to local tastes) information boards and specific communication printed materials.

Contenu lié

Implementing AgencyBulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB)
Collaborating agenciesCMS Raptors MOU, Hellenic Ornithological Society/Birdlife Greece (HOS), WWF Greece, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds / BirdLife UK (RSPB), Doga Dernegi/BirdLife Turkey (DD), BirdLife Middle East, BirdLife Africa, A.P. Leventis Ornithological and Research Institute (APLORI), Green Balkans

Activity start dateJuly 2017
Activity end dateDecember 2022
CMS AppendixAppendix I
Taxonomic groupBirds
Target regionAfrica
Middle East
Target countryAlbania, Bulgaria, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Türkiye
Final technical reportNo

Habitat loss and degradation
Energy production and mining