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Target: saving the Canary Islands Egyptian Vulture

Tracking and recording with GPS transmitters on the Canary Islands, a subspecies of vulture that lives in the Canary Islands, helps the conservation of the species by studying its behaviour.

Canary Islands Egyptian Vulture (Guirre) flying

This is a very particular subspecies of Egyptian Vulture on the Canary Islands. Its adaptation to the geography and insular environment has made the Guirre, as it is known on the islands, stand out because of its uniqueness  both in terms of it shape and genetically compared with other species of Egyptian vultures in Europe. At the end of the 1990s, the mortality rate of the Guirre population was so high that the species was at risk of extinction, however, the causes were unknown.

After studying the behaviour of the “Guirre”, researchers confirmed that one reason for the death by unnatural causes was the use of electrical infrastructures as resting places and roosting sites. It was then that Endesa decided to contribute towards finding solutions.

As part of our Plan for the Conservation of Biodiversity, between 2004 and 2008 we took part in the LIFE Natura 04/NAT/ES/000067 Project “Conservation of the Guirre in SPAs in Fuerteventura”, which reduced the number of accidents by electrocution. Since then, Endesa has continued to work on implementing conservation measures for the "Guirre" to prevent the extinction of the species.

In 2014, a new project was launched with the collaboration of the Doñana –CSIC Biological Station, designed to establish the "Environmental Implications of the use of power lines by Guirres with the help of GPS tracking techniques".

“Carrying out research on threatened species is essential; patients cannot be treated if we do not know what is wrong with them.”

José Antonio Donázar, Researcher at the Doñana-CSIC Biological Station.

GPS tracking

Endesa’s collaboration enabled five Guirres to be monitored between 2014 and 2016. A GPS device was installed on each of the individuals, which then sent the information to a computer. This enabled us to identify where the Guirres’ most commonly used resting places and roosting sites were located, in order to carry out the necessary corrections.

This study has enabled us to gain a better understanding of the ecological role of the pylons and the surroundings for this species. We verified that in areas in which there is a lack of trees such as the Canary Islands, electricity pylons represent safe points required for the survival of this species.

 

Initiatives for the preservation of the Guirre

Endesa’s role was not just limited to research; once the most dangerous points for the Guirre had been identified, we carried out the necessary improvements to ensure the subspecies could survive.

Initially the activities carried included indicating ground wires to prevent collisions or replacing anti-vibrators that were considered dangerous and replacing them with newly designed ones. But, above all, we insulated various supports that were being used as resting places by the Guirres, leading to a risk of electrocution, so we prevented them from coming into contact with any live elements.

Furthermore, we installed reflective markers to prevent the birds from colliding with the power lines. To date, a total of 22 kilometres of power lines have been marked to protect the birds on the islands.

“Endesa has played a very significant role in various programmes for the recovery of the Guirre since 2008. To date, a total of 22 kilometres of power lines have been marked for the protection of the birds on the islands.”

Rogelio Mesa. Endesa Red Environmental Expert

Apart from actively taking part, we believe that raising awareness is very important. Accordingly, in 2014, Endesa organised the exposition “Tamarán, the story of a birth”, which explained the birth of the first Guirre born in captivity, with the help of panels and videos. The aim was to communicate the importance of this birth as a way of raising awareness among the community regarding the work carried out to save and protect the Guirre.

The Spanish Ornithology Society (SEO-Birdlife), in the Canary Islands also collaborated with Endesa in order to implement these measures, contributing to the study of the possible risks of electricity pylons on the islands for birds and monitoring the effectiveness of the actions carried out.

The measures adopted have been extremely successful. The downward trend has been reversed and now the population of Guirres in the Canary Islands is increasing. The number of specimens has tripled since 1998.

collage of some photos of the Canary Islands Egyptian Vulture

Italian-Canarian project for the conservation of the Egyptian Vulture

This type of vulture not only exists on the islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, but also in the Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia and Sicily, which are home to only approximately twelve pairs, with the numbers dropping by more than 80% over the last 50 years.

With the aim of continuing with the conservation tasks for this species, which began in the Canary Islands last century at the end of the ‘90s and in order to implement initiatives to prevent the extinction of the species in Italy, Enel presents the LIFE programme, a conservation project for the Egyptian Vulture between the Canary Islands and Italy. In June 2017, the European Commission approved this conservation improvement project, 75% of which is co-financed by the EU and which amounts to 5 million euros.

This LIFE project will be carried out between 2017 and 2022 and it will form part of the targets set by Enel Distribución and Endesa Distribución in the area of the environment. It includes initiatives such as captive breeding and reintroducing the vulture chicks born in captivity into their natural habitat, the protection of nesting sites, the creation of feeding points and combating the use of poisoned baits.

In Italy, the project will be led by e-distribuzione, Enel’s distribution company in Italy, together with other Italian partners - ISPRA, Regione Puglia, Basilicata, Federparchi-. Direct interventions will be carried out to favour the Egyptian Vulture by installing new insulation systems on over 500 electric pylons, covering an area of approximately 50 kilometres of medium-voltage power lines located in sensitive areas for the species, thus minimising the risk of electrocution incidents.

In the Canary Islands, Endesa Distribución, in collaboration with the Government of the Canary Islands and GESPLAN, will carry out interventions to insulate around 220 perch sites, covering an area of around 22 kilometres of medium-voltage power lines located in areas in which the Egyptian Vulture lives in Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.

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