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  31.08.2018, 11:12h

International Vulture Awareness Day dedicated to the protection of the Griffon vulture


The first Saturday in September is International Vulture Awareness Day (IVAD).

This year, the Priroda Public Institution, Zagreb Zoo and BIOM Association have come together to commemorate this day at the Griffon Vulture Visitor Centre and Recovery Centre and the Zagreb Zoo with a three-day programme.

In Croatia, the Griffon vulture is an endangered species. The nesting population includes 120 to 130 pairs. It is most threatened by the abandonment of traditional animal husbandry, hunting and poaching, carnivore poisoning, tourism and intensive agriculture. Wind turbines and power longlines are also responsible for reducing abundance, particularly of young birds. In Krka National Park, the Griffon vulture nested at Roški Slap until 1975. The last time it was recorded in flight in January 1989, in search of food over the Rupsko Polje field. There have been no new observations. In its annual plan, the Public Institute of Krka National Park has drafted a project plan to build a feeding ground and cage for the reintroduction of the Griffon vulture. This is an intentional reintroduction into nature, in an area where this species was once present, and there are still suitable conditions for its survival that are similar to the conditions in place prior to its disappearance from this area.

The Griffon vulture belongs to the order of falcons, family of hawks and eagles, and is one of the largest vultures. Today it nests in smaller numbers on the islands in the Bay of Kvarner: Krk, Cres, Rab and Prvić. This bird is brown in colour, with a prominent white head and neck covered in down feathers. The nesting season begins in late January and early February. The female lays a single egg in the winter period on a vertical and inaccessible cliff. Over the next two months, both parents take turns sitting on and warming the egg. The young vultures leave the cliffs in September of the same year, and return to their birthplace only after five or six years when they nest for the first time. They are monogamous, nest in colonies, and the pair remain together for the rest of their lives. They feed on carcasses, primarily ungulates (cows, horses, sheep, deer, etc.). In nature, they play the role of a “cleaner” and never attack live prey. The digestive system is so adapted for this feeding strategy that the stomach is completely resistant to the toxic products of decomposing proteins in the carcasses they feed on. After feeding, they wash their feathers in freshwater and dry them in the sun. This is a social bird that lives in colonies. The flight is deep with large wing movements, and they typically soar for hours on the air currents.