A critically endangered black vulture and five griffon vultures were released back into the wild in the Alentejo borough of Mértola on January 14.
The release was carried out by Olhão-based wildlife rehabilitation centre RIAS and the Portuguese Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF).
The black vulture had been found in Serpa while the griffon vultures had been taken in by the rehabilitation centre after being found “exhausted in different parts of the Lower Alentejo and Algarve,” said RIAS in a statement to the press.
The black vulture, also known as cinereous vulture, was named Bruma and equipped with a GPS transmitter provided by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF). The tracker is now helping conservationists follow the vulture, which has made its way over to Spain.
“The return of this animal back to the wild is an important contribution to its conservation,” said RIAS, which last year had already released another black vulture that also travelled over to Spain.
As the wildlife rehabilitation centre explains, black vultures are currently classified as “critically endangered” in Portugal. They were almost wiped off the map in the 1970s when poisoned carcasses were used to “eliminate unwanted predators”.
“This method is now illegal and is thankfully being used less and less,” said RIAS.
Meanwhile, the increase of the black vulture population in Spain has seen the species move over to Portugal over the years and eventually start to mate here.
In fact, there are now at least three known colonies of black vultures in Portugal – in the Tagus International Natural Park (20 couples), in the Douro International Natural Park (two couples) and in Herdade da Contenda (at least 10 couples).
Tracking devices have also helped conservationists understand the black vultures’ behaviour as well as the threats they face, making it easier to take measures to “reduce risks and help them recolonise”, explains RIAS.
Bruma’s latest location can be viewed online at https://www.4vultures.org/our-work/monitoring/cinereous-vulture-online-maps/