Six vultures enjoy a new lease of life
This would be a new start in life, albeit one full of uncertainty and danger. For years, a lack of food has forced these birds to fly huge distances in search of nourishment and they have repeatedly been sighted at a feeding site in the Italian Alps.
Especially now – when the parents have to invest so much energy in rearing their young – it is a considerable drain on their energy to cover such long distances just to find food.
The species has the ornithologist Dr. sc. Goran Sušić to thank
for avoiding extinction.
Sušić has been researching the Croatian Griffon Vulture for 40 years. He was a young man on a scientific field trip when he first saw this breathtaking bird of prey, which has an amazing wingspan of 2.8 metres. He was so fascinated by these birds that he immediately started dedicating his life to their conservation. When he first started counting, Sušić only identified 60 breeding pairs.
Sušić was 23 when he opened his first feeding site for Griffon Vultures. It was actually the first in all of the Balkans and this initiative (plus the many hours he invested in explaining things to shepherds and hunters) gradually allowed the indigenous population to recover. In the years that have followed, the number of breeding pairs has more than doubled and in 1993, Sušić finally retired from his position as head of the Institute of Ornithology in Zagreb to follow his life-long calling. His first step was to open an ecology centre on the island of Cres. In 2011, SKAL international named the centre ‘the best in the world’ for sustainable development but unfortunately it was forced to relocate in 2012. Sušić found a new location on the mainland around 13 kilometres south of the town of Senj. This meant starting from scratch again and even today the center still has no electricity supply.
The indefatigable determination of the team.
The conservationists have managed to ring more than 950 chicks and fledglings over the last quarter of a century and this has resulted in more than 5000 registered sightings. Thanks to the indefatigable determination of Sušić and his team, the conservation status of the Croatian Griffon Vulture has now been improved, lowering from endangered to just vulnerable. Sušić has also succeeded in getting some of the vultures’ breeding colonies to be declared as ornithological conservation areas.
In the summer months and the breeding season, boats packed with tourists chug up and down the breeding grounds everyday in 20-minute intervals. Some of the nesting sites on the island of Prvić are no higher than 10 metres so tourists on the upper decks can even look down directly on the nests. As a result, it’s not uncommon during the daytime hours for the parents to be unable to supply their young with food.
The Grifon NGO looks after anywhere between five and ten griffon vultures each year, typically for a period of many months. Their aim is to make sure the birds are strong enough to be released back into nature.
The actual day of release is always a highlight in the annual calendar of the NGO and this year it took place on 28 May. For the voluntary conservationists, the event is a huge compensation for the inestimable amount of personal energy they have invested, not to mention for the financial situation at the center, which is a constant source of concern. A large number of visitors came to watch the release of the healthy birds and there was a strong media presence. The Croatian public broadcasting company even ran a report on the day.
The Grifon Birds of Prey Conservation Centre is naturally delighted with any voluntary support and donations. To find out more, go to: