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

Background and Objectives
The proposed project is probably 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 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.
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 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
Partners (10): The Brotherhood of the Phoenix – the partnership that has successfully delivered the
previous project – has been strengthened through inviting core players from the Middle East and Africa.
Thus we are convinced we shall be able to deploy the most ambitious conservation endeavour in the
history of the vulture conservation – a targeted implementation of a trans-continental action plan.
Coordinating beneficiary: Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds / BirdLife Bulgaria (BSPB)
Associated beneficiaries:

1. Hellenic Ornithological Society / Birdlife Greece (HOS)
2. WWF Greece
3. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds / BirdLife UK (RSPB)
4. Doga Dernegi / BirdLife Turkey (DD)
5. BirdLife Middle East
6. BirdLife Africa
7. A.P. Leventis Ornithological and Research Institute (APLORI)
8. CMS Raptors MoU
9. Green Balkans

Range states (14):
 Balkans: Bulgaria, Greece, FYR of Macedonia and Albania
 Middle East: Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt
 Africa: Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria and Chad

Period of implementation:
5.5 years (1.7.2017-31.12.2022)
Budget: overall 5,848,458 € (maximum EU contribution 4,386,343 €)
The strategy of the project builds on two main components:
 Achieving steady increase of the population in the breeding ground on the Balkans;
 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).
Below follows breakdown of the activities by logical activity clusters:
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.
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
The third and probably most appealing 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.
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.
Serious effort will be involved to secure adequate project management, monitoring and reporting. The
activities envisaged include:
 Establish a Project Steering Group and a Project Team and making them operational;
 Secure the technical & financial reporting;
 Monitor the impact of the project activities on the target species and the conservation status of
the SPAs and other project sites;
 Assess the socio-economic impact of the project actions on the local economy and population;
 Assess the project’s impact on the ecosystem functions.

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