The cinereous vulture returns to the Pyrenees

“The installation of PAS is vital for the reintroduction of species that have disappeared, such as the cinereous vulture. Thanks to these, their food is guaranteed as well as improving their reproductive success.”

– Jesús Almarza, Technician at TRENCA.

Necrophagous birds and their balanced presence are essential in order to eliminate infection points in our countryside and their disappearance would destabilise the natural balance of our ecosystems. The cinereous vulture, the bearded vulture and the Egyptian vulture are all protected species and the main beneficiaries of the PAS today. As their food is guaranteed, the reproductive success of the species increases and therefore, the chances of survival of these protected species increases too.

Programme for reintroducing the cinereous vulture

Endesa’s assisted food points programme provides support for the project aimed at reintroducing the cinereous vulture in the Pyrenees, developed by TRENCA. It began in 2007, as a result of the need to recover this reproductive species that disappeared in the latter half of the 19th century. The aim is for this new population to strengthen the bond with the French population, thus increasing the genetic variation.

It has taken 10 years to establish a significant stable colony of cinereous vultures (consisting of approximately 55 individuals). A large part of this success is thanks to the PAS, which have become a key factor for feeding this species. They often use them, particularly during the most important breeding times, which contributes to the reproductive success of the species.

images of the cinereous vulture and its habitat

PAS – How they work

Farmers and breeders in the area provide the land for the PAS and contribute towards the provision of the carrion by providing, for example, animals that have died on their farms. These meat products not destined for human consumption are fed to the birds together with those from local abattoirs.

The technicians from TRENCA, together with Endesa, coordinate the entire process, monitoring the species and arranging the bird feeder maintenance and cleaning tasks.

The technique for providing food has improved over the years. We focus on small and somewhat hidden pieces, which is what the cinereous vulture, the bearded vulture and the Egyptian vulture prefer. This ensures that it is not eaten by other carrion species that do not have population problems in the area, such as the griffon vulture, which eats large pieces in a group.

Environmental education and dissemination

The project for the implementation of Supplementary Food Points for necrophagous birds in the Pyrenees is related to environmental education. Throughout 2016, it has been disseminated in the schools and colleges in the area through workshops and teaching sessions. Furthermore, each year, visits are arranged for those interested in the project in order to learn more about necrophagous birds.

This project has become significantly relevant and has been published in important scientific magazines like the 'Journal of Applied Ecology’ and ‘Nature’.

The future aim is for these birds not to need the PAS for food and to be able to develop naturally. The PAS will continue to provide significant support for managing cattle or other dead animals, which is beneficial both environmentally and economically.