The main objective of the "LIFE GYPRESCUE" project is to prevent the disappearance of the Bearded Vulture in Corsica by re-launching natural reproduction and increasing the island's carrying capacity for the species while avoiding its mortality.
To achieve this objective, important actions are being implemented. For example:
- Strengthening the population
- Securing the existing population through egg collection
- Increasing the efficiency of artificial feeding
- Securing dangerous power lines
- Raising awareness of the various mountain stakeholders
Duration of the programme: 1er October 2021 - 30 June 2025.
Project leader :
Syndicat Mixte du Parc Naturel régional de Corse - Parcu di Corsica
Associated beneficiaries :
- Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF)
- Électricité de France - Systèmes énergétiques insulaires (EDF-SEI)
- Departmental Federation of Hunters of South Corsica (FDC2A)
- League for the Protection of Birds (LPO)
Discover the different actions of the LIFE programme
Strengthening the population
The monitoring of the Bearded Vulture population in Corsica has highlighted a problem of population renewal and decline. The risk of extinction of this indigenous island population is very high. This motivated the project to reinforce the population, together with habitat measures. Six Bearded Vultures were successfully released in 2016, 2017 and 2018. It is planned to release at least 4 juvenile Bearded Vultures, 2 males and 2 females, during the LIFE project. This action consists of two sub-actions.
Bearded vulture breeding is carried out by the network EEP bearded vulture, with the aim of :
- To contribute to the organisation of the EEP network to ensure the supply of genetically suitable birds. The aim is to obtain the most suitable specimens for release in Corsica, in order to increase the genetic variability of the island population, releasing as few birds as possible from the EEP, so as not to displace the Corsican genetic information. This will require an annual planning/analysis of possible pairs within the EEP, in order to obtain suitable offspring. In order to achieve the targets that will be set annually, it will be necessary to transfer an average of four birds per year into the EEP network.
- Transferring birds to Corsica
The young Bearded Vultures selected for release in Corsica will be accompanied/transported by VCF to the release point. This action concerns all the steps to be taken so that young Bearded Vultures born in captivity can be brought to the release sites. The birds are transported to the release sites and thus entrusted to the SMPNRC for placement of the birds at the release site. The organisation of transfers and transport of the birds from the various EEP captive breeding centres to the release sites will be carried out by the VCF.
The bearded vultures are released using the hacking method, the same method used for the reintroduction programmes of this species in Europe (Alps, Andalusia, Grands Causses, Vercors Maeztrago), partly in the framework of LIFE project on the Lammergeier. This tried and tested technique consists of releasing two Bearded Vultures at the same time into a nesting cavity. The juveniles are about 90 days old and cannot yet fly.
Monitoring of Bearded Vultures before and after flight is carried out.
The monitoring will last for 5-6 weeks from the time the birds are received until 2-3 months after fledging, depending on the particular context of the site and the need for information on the birds' movements.
The 2 phases of the action
Phase 1: Before the birds fly: Monitoring of the birds to ensure their emancipation, their health and their good development. To do this, visual monitoring will be carried out 7 days a week, from sunrise to sunset.
Phase 2: after the birds have fledged: Monitoring to ensure the birds' good post-fledging development, to analyse their behaviour and their ability to adapt, but also to ensure their sustainability. Monitoring operations will be based on daily observation of the birds in the vicinity of the cleat to follow the learning phase. Telemetric and GPS monitoring are also essential to ensure that the birds are evolving properly and to analyse their behaviour.
The aim is to preserve ex-situ the genetic information of this population, by integrating Corsican individuals into the Bearded Vulture EEP network.
The implementation of this action is based on egg collection, artificial incubation, captive rearing of chicks and pairing of these Corsican Bearded Vultures within the Bearded Vulture EEP network.
The aim is to include at least one offspring of each Corsican breeding pair in the EEP.
The VCF, which coordinates the EEP (Endangered European Species Programme of EAZA, the European network of zoos and aquaria), has experience and knowledge of artificial egg incubation, rearing of young and management of this species in captivity. The VCF provides staff specialised in these techniques.
For about thirty years, the PNRC has been monitoring breeding pairs in Corsica thanks to its excellent knowledge of nesting sites to determine the date of laying and egg collection.
The PNRC agents access the nests by climbing in all seasons. All eggs from the nests concerned will be collected if the conditions are met (safety, etc.). The eggs will be collected at least 21 days after laying, the incubation stage at which the eggs are less fragile. The eggs are deposited with the VCF staff, who are responsible for the artificial incubation.
The egg is transported to the Vallcalent breeding centre in Spain, which has the appropriate equipment and facilities.
Nevertheless, the SMPNRC has a secure room suitable for incubation and artificial hatching, chick rearing and accommodation for the VCF technician, in case the clutch cannot be transported immediately after its removal from the natural environment (e.g. bad weather, rough sea, etc.). If the hatching takes place in Corsica, at the age of about 7-10 days, the young will be transferred and reared according to the method used by the EEP network to ensure their natural development.
The wild resource
Wild ungulates are the best source of food for the Bearded Vulture as they are present all year round in the territories. The action consists in creating and developing a new core population of Corsican Mouflon, the preferred food resource for Bearded Vultures on the island.
This action is also fully in line with the regional strategy for the conservation of mouflon populations on the island, whose Large Ungulates Group is led by the OEC (co-financier of the LIFE project). The SMPRC manages a captive breeding centre for mouflons. It carried out a first release of 14 mouflons in October 2020 in a new sector: the Cagna Mountain, in the south of the island.
The project plans to release at least 20 more Corsican mouflons. These mouflons will come from the same breeding centre in Quenza.
The domestic resource
The domestic food resource represents a large part of the availability for the Bearded Vulture. We therefore plan on the one hand to support the breeders who go up to the mountain pastures and on the other hand to integrate the Bearded Vulture in the policies in favour of pastoralism and the opening of the environment.
In view of the importance of this pastoral practice, the action of the SMPNRC to facilitate transhumance is essential. A set of specifications integrating the various issues linked to the Bearded Vulture and taking into account the Natura 2000 areas has been drawn up. Shepherds who wish to do so can benefit from helicopter rotations before the herds go into summer between June and early July.
Support for the transport of necessary equipment (for fencing, sheepfolds, processing or supplementary feed for the animals) helps to keep sheep and goat herders in summer pasture areas.
The integration of the "bearded vulture" theme in the policies in favour of pastoralism and the opening up of the environment is very important and will make it possible to make the actors working on these themes aware of the challenges of the programme.
The PNRC organises or participates in meetings integrating the issues of the programme, notably on
- the food resource of sheep and goats and their accessibility,
- a responsible practice of summer pasture which can allow the breeders to integrate the bearded vulture issue while facilitating its feasibility.
The results or research of other actions, notably on herd treatments or feeding, will help to orient and update the desired actions throughout the programme with at least one meeting each year and field work with the different actors.
Artificial feeding achieves four objectives:
- To promote the survival of individuals of all age classes (juvenile, immature and adult) and status (territorial and non-territorial = floating)
- To increase reproductive capacity by enabling couples to be in good physiological condition for reproduction
- Accelerating the settlement of new couples
- Compensate for insufficient natural food resources, both spatially and temporally and in terms of quantity and quality.
A network of plots for lammergeier pairs
The setting up of a network of mass graves aims to improve the availability of food throughout the massif. The objectives are: on the one hand to maintain a good physiological state of the birds and a good physical condition before and after reproduction in case of failure, and on the other hand to promote food exploration in order to offer the birds greater food availability for the recolonisation of the massifs of the south of the island. This will also make it possible to simulate a natural increase in the resource, to disperse competing species, to encourage food prospecting and in the longer term to create a food prospecting bridge taking into account the natural resource present.
This action will take place from October to June, the three summer months will be left to a natural prospection made possible by the presence of herds in summer pastures on a large part of the territory.
A network of plots on vacant nesting sites, which were home to lost pairs.
The aim is to make them more attractive in order to encourage couples to settle there.
A network of 'survey' plots
This may encourage bearded vultures to settle elsewhere on the island, particularly in the south. These sites will also help to reduce interactions on the few current sites in the north of the massif.
Reducing the risk of poisoning and intoxication
This action aims to reduce the risk of poisoning by sanitary products in the herd.
The aim is to carry out a survey of medicines used on farms in order to assess the risk to necrophagous birds.
This operation will be carried out in a number of Corsican communes, including Natura 2000 sites, throughout the duration of the programme. Developed with the assistance of the FDC2A, this action should also make it possible to inform and raise the awareness of hunters about the risks associated with the use of lead-containing ammunition and about the interest in using alternative ammunition when hunting wild boar, the only large game that can be hunted on the island, in order to limit the risks of intoxication and, more generally, of polluting ecosystems.
The species taken into account will be at least the Bearded Vulture and sentinel species with scavenging behaviour: Golden Eagles, Red Kites, Common Raven, etc.
The aim is to set up a protocol for the recovery of birds found dead or injured.
Birds found dead will be X-rayed and autopsied. Samples will be taken to assess their contamination, mainly by pesticides and drugs, but also by lead: liver, kidney and digestive contents will be taken for toxicological analysis, possibly supplemented by muscle, bone, brain and feathers.
Prevention of collision and electrocution risks
The objective of this action is to secure and neutralise dangerous sections of power lines for the Bearded Vulture and other raptors listed in Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive. Two lines have been selected following the risk assessment carried out in 2018. The neutralisations will concern both high voltage (HV) and medium voltage (MV) lines (risk of impact), overhead switches (IACM) and MV/LV transformer stations (risk of electrocution). The neutralisation of the lines will be carried out with the help of visualization devices aimed at keeping lammergeiers and other raptors away. The following interventions are planned.
Cable securing consists of grounding cables and poles or installing bird diverters (bird beacons) to avoid the risk of collision. This device is designed to make overhead lines and guyed structures visible to birds. In this case, maintenance is provided by replacing the devices if deemed necessary.
Monitoring of actions and expected results
- Release of at least 4 young Bearded Vultures from the EEP network during the LIFE.
- Birth of a new couple during LIFE.
- Collection of 2 to 5 clutches in the wild with the aim of generating offspring from Corsican individuals for future reintroduction to the island.
- Creation of a new core population of Corsican Mouflon.
- Continuation of the mountain pastures in the Bearded Vulture's favourable area.
- Creation of 3 to 5 new feeding plots so that in the future each occupied territory will be equipped with 2 artificial feeding sites.
- Drafting of several feeding protocols during the first year of LIFE with the aim of improving access to food resources for the Bearded Vulture.
- Strengthening links with the various outdoor activity partners to minimise the risk of disturbance.
- Maintain regular contact with overflight stakeholders to ensure systematic respect of MSAs.
- Testing of lead-free ammunition by at least 2 hunting teams. Their impressions and results will be presented to the hunting federations and associations.
- Preventive management of toxic threats through a formalised partnership with the relevant actors.
- Systematic post-mortem of dead Bearded Vultures and sentinel species.
- Equipping 2 power lines identified as hazardous with anti-collision beacons in the project area. Vigilance will be increased with regard to the installation of future hazardous structures.
- Conservation of the ecosystem services (including health) provided by the Bearded Vulture through its scavenging diet.
- Development of a set of educational contents and dissemination of the results with at least a website, a LIFE presentation brochure, a popularisation report, an educational kit.
- Production of a technical manual to enable better replication of actions.
- Implementation of communication actions to raise awareness of the Bearded Vulture.
- Publication of at least one scientific publication on the results of the studies carried out during this LIFE.
Public awareness and communication
The objective of this action is to use the communication tools created in action E2 to raise awareness among different target audiences.
Recreational and professional users will be made aware of the challenges of preserving biodiversity and human disturbance and will be made more responsible in their behaviour. This meets expectations that were clearly expressed during the preparatory meetings for the LIFE project. This awareness raising will take place throughout the project and several approaches will be developed:
- Information and involvement in social and professional networks
- Development of conventions and charters
- Training and awareness raising for professionals
- Dissemination of communication tools
The general public will also be made aware of the project's scope.
This public awareness will be carried out throughout the project.
Activities will be carried out in approximately 60 schools and colleges throughout the area.
The communication of the programme is intended to disseminate the progress and lessons learned during the programme. The communication tools put in place will make it possible to reach a very varied public and to serve as a showcase for the project and for all the actions that will be developed.
The complementarity of the tools will make it possible to propose effective communication vectors adapted to the target audiences identified.